By Brad Broker
A new study conducted by the U.S. Veterans Health Administration found that patients using hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug highly promoted by President Trump as a cure-all for COVID-19, had higher rates of death compared with those not using the drug.
“The two primary outcomes were death and the need for mechanical ventilation,” according to the authors of the study, which was posted Tuesday on medRxiv, an online server for medical articles prior to peer review.
The V.A. evaluated 368 patients who tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Patients were divided into one of three groups: treatment with hydroxychloroquine alone (HC group); treatment with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin (HC+AZ); or no hydroxychloroquine treatment (no HC group).
“There were 27 deaths (27.8%) in the HC group and 25 deaths (22.1%) in the HC+AZ group,” according to the study. The patients receiving no hydroxychloroquine resulted in the fewest number of deaths at 18.
“In this study, we found no evidence that use of hydroxychloroquine, either with or without azithromycin, reduced the risk of mechanical ventilation in patients hospitalized with Covid-19,” said the authors. And a higher likelihood of death was “identified in patients treated with hydroxychloroquine alone.”
Hydroxychloroquine is an arthritis medicine that has been used for decades to prevent malaria and as a treatment for lupus. Back in March, President Trump created a stir when he touted the drug as effective treatment for the novel coronavirus saying during a White House briefing, “I feel good about it. That’s all it is, just a feeling.”
Last week, a smaller study in Brazil also found that hydroxychloroquine should not be used to treat COVID-19 due to potential harm to patients, specifically fatal heart arrhythmia.
The current study, conducted at the Columbia V.A. Health Care System, Columbia, South Carolina, concluded that “no effective therapy for Covid-19 has yet been identified.”