Hydroxychloroquine was widely denounced as dangerous and ineffective after being touted by President Trump as a treatment for the novel coronavirus, but newly released research found the drug actually works.
A peer-reviewed study published Thursday in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases found that 13% of hospitalized patients treated with hydroxychloroquine alone died of COVID-19, compared to 26.4% who died who were not treated with the drug.
“Our analysis shows that using hydroxychloroquine helped save lives,” said Dr. Steven Kalkanis, a neurosurgeon, CEO of the Henry Ford Medical Group, and senior vice president of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, where the study was conducted.
“As doctors and scientists, we look to the data for insight,” said Dr. Kalkanis in a statement. “And the data here is clear that there was benefit to using the drug as a treatment for sick, hospitalized patients.”
The results of the large-scale study, which included 2,541 patients hospitalized from March 10 to May 2 across the system’s six hospitals, differ from those of previous U.S. studies, including a Columbia University Medical Center analysis that concluded in a May 11 report that the drug was ineffective.
Dr. Marcus Zervos, division head of infectious disease for the Henry Ford Health System, who co-authored the study with epidemiologist Dr. Samia Arshad, said that the difference may be attributed to the dosing and the timing.
“The findings have been highly analyzed and peer-reviewed,” said Dr. Zervos. “We attribute our findings that differ from other studies to early treatment, and part of a combination of interventions that were done in supportive care of patients, including careful cardiac monitoring.”
In addition, he said, “Our dosing also differed from other studies not showing a benefit of the drug.”
After initially approving hydroxychloroquine, or HCQ, for treating COVID-19, the Food and Drug Administration withdrew its emergency-use authorization on June 15, concluding the drug was “unlikely to be effective” and citing the risk of side effects such as “serious cardiac events.”
The drug, which was still permitted for clinical trials, has long been approved for treating lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and malaria, but carries a risk for those with a heart condition known as prolonged QT interval.
Dr. Zervos added that “other studies are either not peer reviewed, have limited numbers of patients, different patient populations or other differences from our patients.”