Anti-malaria drug taken by Trump linked to coronavirus death risk

It reduced patients' recovery time from an average of 15 days to 11 days in that study.

Still, the results don't bode well for the malaria drugs as Covid-19 treatments. Others are vaccine candidates who will teach the immune system to create its own antibodies that kill COVID-19. "It should not be used in the general population to prevent or to treat Covid-19 infection".

Hydroxychloroquine is the most controversial in the latter group, and all thanks to the comments and actions of a single man who has been convinced of the efficacy of the drug in the fight against COVID-19.

Even if the results from the new study, led by researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital Center for Advanced Heart Disease in Boston, hold up, it's still possible the drug could have some benefit.

It all started with a promising study from France a few months ago, followed by anecdotal evidence that hydroxychloroquine works against the new coronavirus. This combination is one President Trump has been encouraging.

Donald Trump has claimed that he was consuming and promoting the drug.

The study found that the patients were more likely to die in hospital and develop heart rhythm complications than other Covid patients in a comparison group. It is the largest observational analysis to date on the drug following disappointing results of earlier small studies.

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Asked this week what evidence he had that the drug was effective in preventing COVID-19, Trump responded: "Are you ready?"

A study of almost 100,000 coronavirus patients has shown no benefit in treating them with anti-viral drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine and even increased the likelihood of them dying in hospital.

The analysis included data from 671 hospitals across six continents, which pooled together resulted in 96,032 patients who had tested positive for COVID-19 and were hospitalized between December 2019 and April 2020. The patients had a mean age of 54.

"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's authors wrote. As many as 8 percent of them developed a heart arrhythmia, as against 0.3 percent who were not given any drugs.

The president - who has previously suggested potential coronavirus cures such as injecting disinfectant - cited "calls" and "good stories" as his evidence of hydroxychloroquine's success.

The researchers also observed a four-fold increased risk of cardiac arrhythmia. Add an antibiotic and the risk of arrhythmia jumps to 311%.

Trying hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 treatment was sensible. "It was given by obviously not friends of the administration", Trump said during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

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"If there was ever hope for this drug, this is the death of it", said Topol.

"Randomized clinical trials will be required before any conclusion can be reached regarding benefit or harm of these agents in COVID-19 patients", the paper said.

Dr Marcos Espinal, director of the Pan American Health Organization - part of the World Health Organization - has stressed that no clinical trials have recommended the use of hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus.

About 9% of patients taking none of the drugs died in the hospital, versus 16% on chloroquine, 18% on hydroxychloroquine, 22% on chloroquine plus an antibiotic, and 24% on hydroxychloroquine plus an antibiotic. "This is a very, very large study". Topol said of the randomized United States trial.

The Columbia study, in draft form, also hasn't yet been published or reviewed by other experts. "It is very hard to ignore that signal and it is worrying to keep giving it", he said.

University of MI cardiovascular specialist Geoffrey Barnes thinks the study should continue, as only the conclusions of a clinical trial would dampen some people's enthusiasm for hydroxychloroquine.

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