Drug taken by Trump raises risk of death, study finds
Hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug taken to prevent Covid-19 by Donald Trump, has increased deaths in patients treated with it in hospitals around the world, a study has shown.
The major study of the way hydroxychloroquine and its older version, chloroquine, have been used on six continents – without clinical trials – reveals a sobering picture. Scientists said the results meant the drugs should no longer be given to Covid patients except in proper research settings.
While the paper published in the Lancet medical journal online is not a trial designed to assess the drug, it shows a quick decision to use it may be ill-advised. Significant numbers of doctors have been prescribing it without evidence. It is known that the drug can cause heart irregularities, but many have claimed it is very safe because of its long use in malaria.
There was a rush to use the drugs in Covid-19 after the French doctor Didier Raoult claimed he was curing his patients in Marseille. The US president then began to claim hydroxychloroquine – less toxic than the original chloroquine – was a cure. Later he said he was taking it to protect himself.
The drugs are fairly safe for patients being treated for malaria, but Covid-19 is a very different disease. 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 and 14 April.
drugs alone died, while one in five died if they were taking chloroquine with an antibiotic, and one in four if they were on hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic. The death rate among patients not taking the drugs was one in 11.
rst large-scale study to find statistically robust evidence that treatment with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine does not benefit patients with Covid-19,” said Prof Mandeep R Mehra, lead author of the study.
“Instead, our findings suggest it may be associated with an increased risk of serious heart problems and increased risk of death … We suggest these drugs should not be used as treatments for Covid-19 outside of clinical trials.”
▲ Hydroxychloroquine, the malarial drug championed by Donald Trump