In a study involving American military veterans, hydroxychloroquine - the anti-malaria drug recommended by Trump on multiple occasions, was found ineffective and even more fatal among COVID-19 patients.
Hydroxychloroquine, taken with anti-biotic azithromycin, is a combination widely touted as a possible cure for novel coronavirus. The combination was first recommended in March by French scientist Didier Raoult.
Can hydroxychloroquine cure COVID-19?
In a study funded by the US government, 368 military veterans who either died or were discharged by April 11, were observed. Around 28 percent of the patients who took hydroxychloroquine, died. While 22 percent patients who took the drug in combination with azithromycin also died. Fatality was 11 percent among those who received only standard care.
Despite the higher rate of mortality among those given hydroxychloroquine, researchers found no added risk of being on ventilator among this group. Thus, the increased fatalities are attributed to the other side-effects of the drug, outside the respiratory system, according to the non-peer-reviewed study published on a medical site.
The medication has proved to be particularly risky for those with underlying heart ailments, among whom it has caused blackouts, seizures and even cardiac arrest, AFP reported. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health [NIH] and the University of Virginia
Trump recommends hydroxychloroquine
With no drug or vaccine available to cure COVID-19, the drug hydroxychloroquine taken with azithromycin was highly touted as a possible cure. US President Donald Trump has been among the supporters of this combination.
Limitations of the study
Although it was concluded that the drug isn't effective and can even be deadlier for COVID-19 patients, the study had several limitations. It was not conducted randomly and focused on a highly specific group: mostly male, with a median age of 65, and black.
In use since the 1950s, hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malaria drug, also used to cure lupus - an auto-immune disease, in which the body's immune system becomes hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissues. It also treats rheumatoid arthritis.