Hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment for COVID-19, according to the results of two recent studies published in The BMJ. In fact, the research suggests that the drug may do more harm than good.
A team of experts in France found that hydroxychloroquine does not significantly reduce the odds of admission to intensive care or death from the disease.
In a randomized clinical trial in China, hospitalized patients with persistent COVID-19 who were given hydroxychloroquine did not recover from the virus more quickly than those receiving standard care.
Furthermore, a higher number of adverse events occurred among the individuals who received the trial drug.
Hydroxychloroquine can reduce inflammation, pain, and swelling. It is widely used to treat rheumatic diseases and malaria.
Lab tests have shown promising results for hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, but a growing collection of evidence is proving otherwise.
However, hydroxychloroquine is included in Chinese guidelines on how best to manage the disease, and has been authorized for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Patients have been advised by the FDA to avoid the drug outside of a hospital setting due to the risk of heart rhythm problems.
In the first study, researchers in France evaluated the effectiveness and safety of hydroxychloroquine in adults admitted to the hospital with pneumonia caused by COVID-19 who needed oxygen.
Among 181 patients, 84 received hydroxychloroquine and 97 did not.
The experts found no meaningful differences in the health outcomes of the two groups.
In the second study, a research team in China investigated the effectiveness and safety of hydroxychloroquine in 150 adults hospitalized with mild or moderate COVID-19.
Half of the patients received the treatment and the other half received standard care.
By day 28, tests revealed similar rates of COVID-19 among patients in the two groups, but adverse events were more common in those who received hydroxychloroquine.
The study authors said that the results do not support the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, but further research is needed to confirm these findings.
The study is published in The BMJ.