Vindicated? Trump-touted COVID-19 drug hydroxychloroquine works, according to new study

The anti-malaria drug that President Trump touted as a possible treatment for coronavirus, hydroxychloroquine, successfully lowered the death rate among hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the most recent study of the drug.

Updated: July 3, 2020 - 8:49am

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The anti-malaria drug that President Trump touted as a possible treatment for coronavirus, hydroxychloroquine, successfully lowered the death rate among hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the most recent study of the drug.

The large-scale analysis, conducted by Henry Ford Health System, was published Thursday in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The study examined 2,541 patients who had been hospitalized in six hospitals between March 10 and May 2, 2020.

More than twenty-six percent (26.4%) of patients who did not receive hydroxychloroquine died.

But among those who received hydroxychloroquine, fewer than half that number — 13% — died.

More than 90% of the patients received hydroxychloroquine within 48 hours of admission to the hospital. Scientists say giving the drug early during illness may be a key to success.

The study’s authors also found one concern flagged in previous reports about hydroxychloroquine did not materialize: heart-related adverse events.

"The data here is clear that there was benefit to using [hydroxychloroquine] as a treatment for sick, hospitalized patients," said Dr. Steven Kalkanis of Henry Ford Health System. 

The study scientists point out that other reports about hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus that had less positive, mixed, or negative results studied different populations; administered hydroxychloroquine later during illness; used different doses, and/or were not peer-reviewed.

President Trump was widely criticized in the media for saying that if hydroxychloroquine proves to work in treating coronavirus, it could be a game changer.

In May, he told reporters that he, himself, took a course of the drug as a preventive measure after several White House officials were diaagnosed with Covid-19. Trump says he suffered no ill effects from hydroxychloroquine.

Henry Ford Health System is also studying 3,000 healthcare and frontline workers to see if hydroxychloroquine can prevent coronavirus. That study is titled: "Will Hydroxychloroquine Impede or Prevent COVID-19" or "WHIP COVID-19." 

However, the study scientists say negative publicity and safety concerns about hydroxychloroquine — some of which they say is inaccurate or out of context — has made it difficult to recruit enough volunteers to take part.

"Currently, the drug should be used only in hospitalized patients with appropriate monitoring, and as part of study protocols, in accordance with all relevant federal regulations," says Dr. Marcus Zervos, co-author of study.

Dozens of drugs are currently under study as possible treatments for coronavirus and multiple potential vaccines are in development.

Cardiologist Dr. William O’Neill, a medical director at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan, first spoke with "Full Measure" about the study while it was underway in May.

 

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