(Reuters)—Malaria drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), which U.S. President Donald Trump says he has been taking, is tied to increased risk of death in COVID-19 patients, according to a study published in The Lancet.1
The registry analysis, which included data from 671 hospitals in six continents and over 96,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, showed that people treated with the drug, or the closely related drug chloroquine, had higher risk of death when compared to those who had not been given the medicine.
Demand for HCQ, a drug approved decades ago, surged after Trump touted its use as a coronavirus treatment in early April. Earlier this week, he surprised the world by admitting he was taking the pill as a preventive medicine.
The Lancet study authors suggest these treatment regimens should not be used to treat COVID-19 outside of clinical trials until results from clinical trials are available to confirm the safety and efficacy of these medications for COVID-19 patients.
The authors write that they could not confirm if taking the drug resulted in any benefit in coronavirus patients.
Weeks ago, Trump had promoted the drug as a potential treatment based on a positive report about its use against the virus, but subsequent studies found that it was not helpful. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in April issued a warning about its use.
The Lancet study looked at data from 14,888 patients who were given either HCQ or chloroquine, with or without a macrolide antibiotic such as azithromycin, and 81,144 patients who were not on these treatment regimens.
- Mehra MR, Desai SS, Ruschitzka F, et al. Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: A multinational registry analysis. The Lancet. 2020 May 22.