Huge Study Throws Cold Water on Antimalarials for COVID-19

US President Donald Trump has revealed that he is taking hydroxychloroquine despite medical warnings against its general use

Sean Hannity read a letter from a doctor recounting his own experience using the drugs as a treatment on air.

His study looked at almost 15,000 people with COVID-19 getting one of the malaria drugs with or without one of the suggested antibiotics and more than 81,000 patients getting none of those medications.

Doctors have also argued it could be risky to take if people don't have a condition the drug is created to help.

While to date there are no clinically proven treatments for COVID-19, the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine has been in the limelight ever since US President Donald Trump announced on 18 May that he had been taking it as a preventive measure against COVID-19, and touted it as a "game changer".

The drugs are approved for treating lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and for preventing and treating malaria, but no large rigorous tests have found them safe or effective for preventing or treating COVID-19. The authors of the paper pulled together results for more than 96,000 patients in 671 hospitals, taking one of the drugs, with or without an antibiotic such as azithromycin, between 20 December, in Wuhan, China, and 14 April.

The study looked at the records of 15,000 people who had been treated with the antimalarials and one of two antibiotics that have sometimes been paired with them.

"This is the first large-scale study to find statistically robust evidence that treatment with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine does not benefit patients with COVID-19", Dr. Mandeep Mehra, the study's lead author and medical director of the Brigham and Women's Hospital Heart and Vascular Center in Boston, said in a news release on Friday.

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Notably, United States President Donald Trump claimed he has been taking the drug. The risk of developing a serious heart rhythm problem is more than five times greater.

Frontline health workers in the United Kingdom working for the National Health Service (NHS) will be given hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug, to assess whether it can prevent COVID-19.

The Lancet study authors suggested the medicines should not be used to treat Covid-19 outside of clinical trials until those studies confirm their safety and efficacy for Covid-19 patients.

Dr Stephen Griffin, associate professor in the school of medicine at the University of Leeds, also said those that follow Mr Trump's example might not only endanger themselves, "but could also deprive patients with chronic autoimmune conditions of their much-needed medication".

"Whilst controlled trials will be required for confident affirmation, the indications are that these drugs certainly ought not to be used outside of a trial setting where patients can be monitored for complications". Both drugs can produce potentially serious side effects, particularly heart arrhythmia.

The results suggest these drugs are "not useful and may be harmful" in people hospitalized with COVID-19, professor Christian Funck-Brentano, of the Sorbonne University in Paris, wrote in a commentary published by the journal.

"It might even be said that to go on giving them, other than in a trial, is unethical, given this evidence that is not yet contradicted by other available evidence".

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