A large observational study involving 96,000 patients in the United States of America shows no evidence that an antimalarial drug treats the coronavirus.
The study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal lancet shows hydroxychloroquine can actually cause harm and was linked to increased rates of mortality and heart rhythm complications among hospitalized Covid-19 patients.
The researchers suggested that the drugs shouldn’t be used to treat coronavirus patients outside of clinical trials for now.
Patients who took the drugs were more likely to die in the hospital, the researchers found. While that may be due in part to the likelihood that those medicines were given to patients who were sicker, the authors of the study estimated that the excess risk ranged from 34 to 45 percent.
However, the study’s authors pushed for urgent randomized, controlled trials, saying it’s not possible in an observational study to exclude the possibility that other factors were responsible for the apparent link between survival rate and these drugs.
People taking hydroxychloroquine in combination with an antibiotic appeared to have the highest increased risk of heart rhythm complications, the study found.
Chloroquine is approved for malaria, and hydroxychloroquine for autoimmune diseases like Lupus; the authors said the study does not suggest those patients should stop taking the drugs as prescribed.