Drug touted by Trump as virus treatment increases death risk

Hydroxychloroquine on tray

All of the patients included in the study had either been discharged or had died by 21 April 2020.

"We were unable to confirm a benefit of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, when used alone or with a macrolide, on in-hospital outcomes for COVID-19", the study concluded.

CNN reports, "About 1 in 11 patients in the control group died in the hospital". The biggest increase was in the group treated with hydroxychloroquine in combination with an antibiotic, where 8% of patients developed a heart arrhythmia compared with 0.3% of patients not given the drugs.

The FDA has said that, for safety reasons, hydroxychloroquine should be used only for hospitalized COVID-19 patients or those in clinical trials.

Treatment with any combination of the four drugs was associated with a higher risk of death than seen in 81,000 patients who didn't receive them.

Trump said Wednesday that he will finish taking hydroxychloroquine this week, and has not reported any health issues.

The risk of developing a serious heart rhythm problem is more than five times greater. There was also a 45 percent increased risk of death and a 411 percent increased risk of heart arrhythmias for those given the drug with and an additional antibiotic.

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In a segment on NPR earlier this week, medical researchers and others explored the politicization of drug treatments as a sad development to emerge during the Covid-19 pandemic, with many placing the blame squarely at the feet of a president who has sidelined experts while injecting his own uninformed and often ridiculous claims into the national conversation.

US President Trump on Friday continued to roil the country with his controversial behaviour, including canvassing for the antimalarial drug hydroxichloroquinine and disdainfully abjuring masks. Those who took hydroxychloroquine were 34% more likely to die and were 137% more likely to develop heart rhythm problems. The Food and Drug Administration has warned against taking hydroxychloroquine with antibiotics and has said the malaria drug should only be used for coronavirus in formal studies. Those who were given hydroxychloroquine with an antibiotic were at the highest risk.

The drug US President Donald Trump said he was taking to ward off Covid-19 actually increases the risk of patients with the disease dying from it, a study in the Lancet has found. The drug and its more toxic predecessor, chloroquine, are also linked to a unsafe heart condition.

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. However, previous small-scale studies have failed to identify robust evidence of a benefit and larger, randomized controlled trials are not yet completed.

For example, one USA study published in late April found the death rate for people with COVID-19 who took hydroxychloroquine on top of usual care was actually higher than those who didn't - 28% vs. 11%, respectively.

Lead author Mandeep Mehra, a Harvard Medical School professor and doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told the Post in retrospect it was unwise to put the drugs into widespread use without systematic testing, but "a desperate disease demands desperate measures".

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