LOS ANGELES - A surprising new study found that the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine was associated with a significant reduction in mortality among sick patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
A team at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan studied 2,541 patients hospitalized with a COVID-related admission between March 10 to May 2.
“Our analysis shows that using hydroxychloroquine helped saves lives,” said neurosurgeon Dr. Steven Kalkanis, CEO, Henry Ford Medical Group and Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer of Henry Ford Health System.
“As doctors and scientists, we look to the data for insight. And the data here is clear that there was benefit to using the drug as a treatment for sick, hospitalized patients," Kalkanis said.
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the role of hydroxychloroquine therapy alone and in combination with azithromycin in patients with the virus.The study found 13% of those treated with hydroxychloroquine alone died compared to 26.4% not treated with the drug.
“Hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial and immunomodulatory agent and a safer analogue of chloroquine, has demonstrated antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2”, the study published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases read.
All patients observed in the study were at least 18 years old and the majority of patients received the drug soon after admission. Ninety-one percent of said patients received the drug within 48 hours of admission to the hospital.
The study describes how patients were given two 400 mg doses of hydroxychloroquine on the first day, followed by two doses of 200 mg on days 2-5. Patients received one 500 mg dose of azithromycin on the first day of the study, followed by another daily 250 mg dose for the next four days.The combination of the two drugs was reserved for patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms and minimal cardiac risk factors.
“Considered in the context of current studies on the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19, our results suggest that the drug may have an important role to play in reducing COVID-19 mortality,” Dr. Marcus Zervos, division head of Infectious Disease for Henry Ford Health System said.
This study follows other research and reports that have cast doubt over the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine’s benefit when used to treat COVID-19 patients.
In May, President Donald Trump defended himself against criticism from medical experts after he announced he was using hydroxychlorquine to ward off COVID-19 symptoms, as his taking and endorsement of the unproven drug treatment could spark wide misuse by Americans, potentially leading to fatal side effects.
Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rescinded its emergency use authorization of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients. “Specifically, FDA has determined that CQ and HCQ are unlikely to be effective in treating COVID-19 for the authorized uses in the EUA,” the FDA wrote in a June 15 update.