The anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine provides no benefits to patients suffering from the coronavirus, and actually raises their risk of death, a study from The Lancet weekly medical journal found. President Trump has frequently touted the drug, even calling it a “game-changer,” and has claimed he is taking the treatment to protect against the virus.
The study involved 96,000 patients with the virus from 671 hospitals around the world, with 15,000 in this group taking hydroxychloroquine, or the related form chloroquine. The patients took the drug either alone or with an antibiotic.
The drug can result in heart rhythm problems among patients and can increase their risk of death in the hospital. The death rates of the groups treated by the drug are: hydroxychloroquine 18%; chloroquine 16.4%; control group 9%.
“These findings provide absolutely no reason for optimism that these drugs might be useful in the prevention or treatment of COVID-19,” David Maron, director of preventive cardiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, told the Washington Post.
Trump on Wednesday said he would stop taking the once-a-day hydroxychloroquine pill “in a day or two.” Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has also promoted the drug, prompting Health Minister Nelson Teich to resign.
Another drug, remdesivir, has been given emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration to treat coronavirus. The drug has been effective in helping patients recovering from the virus, but is more limited in helping those who need mechanical ventilation.
“It’s a very safe and effective drug,” Eric Topol, Founder and Director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute told Stat News about remdesivir. “We now have a definite first efficacious drug for Covid-19, which is a major step forward and will be built upon with other drugs, [and drug] combinations.”
The coronavirus has been classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. As of Saturday at 4:15 p.m. ET, there are 5,271,047 global cases of the virus, with the death toll at 340,196.