New French study joins rancour over hydroxychloroquine as potential drug for Coronavirus

  • US President Donald Trump on several occasions cited hydroxychloroquine as 'wonder drug'

  • Health experts insist that people should not take it due to dangerous side effects

  • New study on hydroxychloroquine reveals it is not helpful

Despite several claims, a new study from France has revealed that hydroxychloroquine didn't help hospitalized patients with coronavirus, instead, it was associated with heart complications.

Dr Paul Offit, an infectious disease specialist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia said that this new study is the evidence that the highly popular drug, hydroxychloroquine does not apparently treat patients with COVID 19. "Even worse, there were side effects caused by the drug -- heart toxicities that required it be discontinued," he added.

French study on hydroxychloroquine

In a recent study in France, doctors revealed that they first looked back at the medical history of 181 Coronavirus patients who had pneumonia and required supplemental oxygen. Later, after going through the medical records they prescribed hydroxychloroquine to half of the patients, within 48 hours of being admitted to the hospital. But the other half of the patients did not take the medication.

Further analysis by doctors could not find any difference in the death rates of the two groups or their chances of being admitted to the hospital's intensive care unit. After finding this, the study raised further safety concerns about the drug's side effects.

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Side effects of the Hydroxychloroquine

As per the French study, eight patients who took the drug developed abnormal heart rhythms and had to stop taking it. Here it should be noted that abnormality in heart rate is a common side effect of hydroxychloroquine, which has been used to treat malaria patients for decades. It also treats diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Earlier health experts in Brazil, as well as Sweden, sounded the alarm against the use of similar drug chloroquine, which was discovered in 1934. Doctors in Sweden's Vastra Gotaland region are no longer administering the medication. The decision was taken after a number of patients in Sweden hospitals reported suffering cramps, peripheral vision loss and migraines within days of being prescribed the chloroquine tablets.

In the new study, researchers said that among the 84 patients who took hydroxychloroquine, 20.2 percent were admitted to the ICU or died within seven days of taking the drug, while among 97 patients who did not take the drug, 22.1 percent ended up in ICU or died due to the disease. Here the difference between the groups was not found to be statistically significant.

The study author revealed that "these results do not support the use of [hydroxychloroquine] in patients hospitalised for documented SARSCoV-2-positive hypoxic pneumonia."

Popularity of Hydroxychloroquine

The so-called 'game-changer' drug, hydroxychloroquine became famous after US President Donald Trump claimed that it could be a potential medication to treat Coronavirus patients and the largest producer of this drug in the world, India, also agreed to lift the ban on the export of the medicine to the US after Trump spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Earlier Trump said that the drug shows tremendous promise and it looks like the drug is harmless. On March 19 he also stated, "I think it is going to be great," and on April 4, Trump said, "What do you have to lose? Take it."

Earlier other physicians warned that even though Trump believes that hydroxychloroquine is a potential drug, people should not take the medication on their own as it still needs to be studied to see if it works and safe. Offit said, "People can claim what they want, but the proof is in the pudding, and this is the pudding."

No potential drug available for Coronavirus patients?

While the current study says the hydroxychloroquine cannot be labelled as a potential drug for COVID-19 patients, it is claimed that among all the drugs remdesivir, developed by Gilead sciences could be the closest to commercial launch. This drug has shown early promise in treating some Chinese COVID-19 patients, as per the doctors. At a press conference in China, Bruce Aylward, a WHO official stated that "there's only one drug right now that we think may have real efficacy. And that's remdesivir."

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But recently it was revealed that Gilead Sciences has suspended one of its clinical trials of remdesivir for COVID-19 in China. The company is running at least five clinical trials for its experimental drug against COVID-19. As per the reports, till now over 1,800 patients have been treated using the drug on an individual compassionate use basis so far.

As per an update on April 15 in, "The epidemic of COVID-19 has been controlled well in China, no eligible patients can be enrolled at present," so the authorities had to stop the trial.

Related topics : Coronavirus