Is hydroxychloroquine really a game changer in the coronavirus fight?

Touted as a "game changer", the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), it appears, isn't doing much to cure the fatal coronavirus disease. A new study has found that instead of curing coronavirus patients, the drug merely alleviates its symptoms, creating the myth that the condition of the patient has improved.

Backed by US President Donald Trump, the demand for HCQ has increased manifold, even as there has been no concrete proof that it is helpful in treating Covid-19.

The global pandemic has crossed the two million mark of infections worldwide with over 129,200 deaths.

Study conducted on 150 coronavirus patients in China

Led by Wei Tang of Ruijin Hospital in Shanghai, the research, presently under peer-review, was conducted on 150 patients in 16 medical centres in China, the epicentre of the coronavirus. It was conducted from February 11-29 and published on medXiv repository, a few days ago.

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Out of the 150 Covid-19 patients, 75 were administered HCQ while the remaining were provided standard-of-care. Those who took the drug witnessed some side-effects, including diarreha.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Allen Cheng, an infectious disease physician and a professor of epidemiology at Melbourne, Australia's Monash University, said: "When testing new treatments, we are looking for signals that show that they might be effective before proceeding to larger studies. This study doesn't show any signal, so it is probably unlikely that it will be of clinical benefit."

HCQ merely helps in alleviation of clinical symptoms

The research also found that within the 28-day period, normalization of C-reactive protein and blood lymphocyte count occurs.

Fox News quoted the findings of the study: "The overall 28-day negative conversion rate was not different between [standard-of-care] plus [hydroxychloroquine and standard-of-care] group (Kaplan-Meier estimates 85.4% versus 81.3%, P=0.341). Negative conversion rate at day 4, 7, 10, 14 or 21 was also similar between the two groups. No different 28-day symptoms alleviation rate was observed between the two groups."

"The administration of [hydroxychloroquine] did not result in a higher negative conversion rate but more alleviation of clinical symptoms than [standard-of-care] alone in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 without receiving antiviral treatment, possibly through anti-inflammatory effects," the researchers added.

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration had given the go-ahead for emergency use of HCQ and chloroquine along with several other drugs.

Related topics : Coronavirus