New Delhi ( Tisha Bhatia ) : A new study has found that treatment with the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine cut the death rate significantly in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The drug was touted by President Donald Trump as a potential ‘game changer’ in the global fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has now killed at least 535,025 people across the world.
The study found that patients who took the drug had a ‘significantly’ lower mortality rate compared to those who did not take the antiviral medication. The researchers found that 13 per cent of COVID-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine died compared to 26 per cent of those not receiving the drug.
“We attribute our findings that differ from other studies to early treatment, and part of a combination of interventions that were done in supportive care of patients, including careful cardiac monitoring. Our dosing also differed from other studies not showing the benefit of the drug. And other studies are either not peer-reviewed, have limited numbers of patients, different patient populations, or other differences from our patients.”
The study also found that patients treated with azithromycin alone or a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin also fared slightly better than those not treated with the drugs. The analysis showed 22.4 per cent of those treated only with azithromycin died, and 20.1 per cent treated with a combination of azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine died, compared to 26.4 per cent who were not treated with either medication.
“Our analysis shows that using hydroxychloroquine helped saves lives,” said neurosurgeon Dr Steven Kalkanis, CEO, Henry Ford Medical Group and Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer of Henry Ford Health System. “As doctors and scientists, we look to the data for insight. And the data here is clear that there was benefit to using the drug as a treatment for sick, hospitalized patients.”The study included patients who were 18 or over with a median age of 64 years.
Dr Zervos, however, cautioned that the study results should not be applied to patients treated outside of hospital settings, adding further confirmation in prospective, randomized controlled trials that rigorously evaluate the safety and efficacy of hydroxychloroquine therapy for COVID-19 is required.
On July 4, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it was discontinuing its trials of hydroxychloroquine and combination HIV drug lopinavir/ritonavir in hospitalised COVID-19 patients after they failed to reduce the death rate. Interim results from the Solidarity trial indicated that hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir produce little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalized COVID-19 patients when compared to standard of care.
Also, on July 1, the US FDA cautioned against the use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for COVID-19 outside of the hospital setting or a clinical trial due to heart rhythm problems and other safety issues.