Recent findings on hydroxychloroquine as coronavirus (COVID-19) treatment not favorable

Hydroxycholorquine testing poorly in search for coronavirus treatment

DETROIT – As more studies of possible new coronavirus (COVID-19) treatments continue to ramp up, more unfavorable findings about hydroxycholorquine have streamed in.

Local 4′s Dr. Frank McGeorge is still involved in a hydroxycholorquine study at Henry Ford Hospital. The WHIP COVID-19 study is still enrolling people. McGeorge has been taking the daily pills for almost seven weeks, though he doesn’t know if he’s on a daily dose, a weekly dose or a placebo.

But nationwide, the recent information about hydroxycholorquine hasn’t been favorable.

Last week, the British Journal Lancet published the results of a large observational study that looked at more than 96,000 patients in 671 hospitals across six continents. Researchers found there was no benefit to hydroxycholorquine or chloroquine -- either alone or combined with a macrolide antibiotic such as zithromax -- when started within 48 hours of diagnosis.

In fact, there was a significantly increased risk of serious heart rhythm abnormalities for COVID-19 patients on any of those drug combinations, as well as an increased risk of death on the drugs.

UPDATE -- May 26, 2020: Michigan coronavirus cases up to 55,104; Death toll now at 5,266

It’s important to note that this was an observational study, so expects can’t draw cause-and-effect conclusions regarding harm. But it’s notable that other recent studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association also failed to identify any benefit to hydroxycholorquine.

The latest Lancet study was significant enough that the World Health Organization announced it is putting a pause on the hydroxycholorquine arm of a large international randomized controlled study of four different drugs to treat COVID-19 until they complete a safety analysis of hydroxycholorquine.

There are more studies of hydroxycholorquine left to be completed. The WHIP COVID-19 study is looking at something that hasn’t been well examined: preventative use of hydroxycholorquine before infection. It’s possible it could be ineffective as treatment but keep someone safe if they’re later exposed.

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