Hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug touted by the U.S. President Donald Trump on numerous occasions, is linked to higher death rates, a recent study has found. The drug and its more toxic predecessor, chloroquine, are also linked to a dangerous heart condition.

For this study, researchers analyzed data of over 96,000 Covid-19 patients from 671 hospitals in six continents. All of them were in hospitals between December 20 and April 14. Around 15,000 of them were treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, or either of the two drugs in combination with an antibiotic.

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According to the study published in the Lancet journal on Friday, all the four treatments were linked to a higher risk of death than those who were not administered any of those treatments. One in six patients given either of the two drugs, without an antibiotic, died. One in five who was given chloroquine with an antibiotic and one in four given hydroxychloroquine with an antibiotic, perished. One in eleven patients who was not given any of the four treatments died of Covid-19.

Linked to Serious Cardiac Arrhythmia

Patients who were administered any of the four treatments developed serious cardiac arrhythmia, which refers to a condition in which the lower chamber of the heart beats rapidly and irregularly. Those who were given hydroxychloroquine with an antibiotic were at the highest risk. As many as 8 percent of them developed a heart arrhythmia, as against 0.3 percent who were not given any drugs.

Hydroxychloroquine and COVID Treatment

The drug has been in use since the 1950s and is used to treat malaria and lupus. It was started to be administered to coronavirus patients after the French doctor Didier Raoult said that he was using it to treat COVID patients. Since then the drug has been widely touted as a cure for the disease, including by the U.S. President Donald Trump.

Trump, at a press briefing on Monday, went on to say that he himself was taking the drug as prevention against coronavirus. He told reporters that he has been taking the drug, in combination with azithromycin, for over a week.