hydroxychloroquine increases risk of arrhythmia and death from COVID-19

Researchers keep giving hydroxychloroquine another chance, but, despite continued promotion from nonexperts, it just keeps failing.

We have extensively reviewed the many failed attempts to give hydroxychloroquine the chance to demonstrate its benefit for COVID-19. Given yet another opportunity, hydroxychloroquine has again shown, not only that it is not a game changer, but that it may even do more harm. 

The latest disappointment was just published in The Lancet. The researchers analyzed data of 96,032 people with COVID-19 in 671 hospitals on six continents: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. They compared the 14,888 who were treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with the 81,144 who were not. The people in the treatment group were divided into one of four treatments: hydroxychloroquine alone, hydroxychloroquine plus a macrolide antibiotic like azithromycin, chloroquine alone or chloroquine and a macrolide. The researchers wanted to compare the claimed benefit of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to one of the most commonly seen risks of the drugs. To do this risk/benefit analysis, they compared the treatment group to the control group for death from COVID-19 and for arrhythmias. Hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine failed both tests.

The bad news is that 9.3% of the control group died while in the hospital. The alarmingly bad news is that 18% of the hydroxychloroquine group died while in the hospital. And the news did not get any better for the other treatment groups. 23.8% of those given hydroxychloroquine plus macrolide died, 16.4% of those given chloroquine died and 22.2% of those given chloroquine plus macrolide died. Every one of the four hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine treatments was associated with an increased risk of dying from COVID-19.

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine not only failed the benefit test by showing that they actually increased the risk of death, they also failed the risk test. Only .3% of the control group developed arrhythmias, but 6.1% of the hydroxychloroquine group, 8.1% of the hydroxychloroquine plus macrolide, 4.3% of the chloroquine and 6.5% of the chloroquine plus macrolide groups did.

This large, real-world study found that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine provided no benefit for people with COVID-19; instead it increased the risk of arrythmia while increasing, not decreasing, the risk of death. The researchers say that, to their knowledge, their findings “provide the most comprehensive evidence of the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine (with or without a macrolide) for treatment of COVID-19.”

Lancet 2020;doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31180-6

This blog was written by Ted Snider.

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