Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) study shows increased mortality in COVID-19 patients just as ICMR widens its use in India
The study suggests that HCQ should not be used against COVID-19 outside of clinical trials at this point.
Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is an anti-malarial drug which is being tested as a prophylactic treatment to prevent COVID-19 infection worldwide. According to the guidelines laid by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on the prophylactic use of hydroxychloroquine on 23rd March 2020, the drug was tested in the laboratories and showed promising results in treating and preventing COVID-19 infection. Since then, many doctors and healthcare workers in India have been given hydroxychloroquine to prevent them from contracting the infection. Moreover, India has also exported the drug to many other countries, including the United States.
However, a recent study published in The Lancet showed that giving hydroxychloroquine to people infected with COVID-19 infection can increase their risk of death. The study was conducted on a massive scale and showed negative effects of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine on COVID-19 infected people.
Continued use of hydroxychloroquine: ICMR’s revised guidelines for hydroxychloroquine
The ICMR laid down their revised guidelines for hydroxychloroquine on 22nd May 2020, which stated that the medication would also be given to all the healthcare workers working during this pandemic and the frontline workers (including police officers) who are deployed in the containment zones. This decision was based on three studies: a retrospective case-control analysis by ICMR, another conducted by three government hospitals and a third conducted on AIIMS healthcare workers.
The contradictory Lancet study
The study published in The Lancet was based on testing the effect of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine on COVID-19 patients. The study was conducted by Dr Mandeep Mehra, a Harvard Medical School professor and physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, along with his colleagues from other institutions. It was done on 96,032 patients who had been infected with COVID-19 and were hospitalized between 20th December 2019 to 14th April 2020. Out of these people, 14,888 were given the medication while the rest were given a placebo.
The treatment group was divided into four categories depending upon people who received: only chloroquine, chloroquine with antibiotics, only hydroxychloroquine and hydroxychloroquine with antibiotics.
Conclusion of the study
During the study period, 10,698 deaths were reported. The death rate was reported to be 9.3% in the people who got a placebo. However, it was found to be increased in people who got the medication. The study showed that the death rate was 18% in people who got hydroxychloroquine, 23.8% in the ones who got hydroxychloroquine with antibiotics, 16.4% in the group who got chloroquine and 22.2% in those who got chloroquine with the antibiotic.
The study further found that the group who got the drug showed an increased risk of getting irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias). When compared to the group that got a placebo, 6.1% increased risk of arrhythmias were seen in hydroxychloroquine, 8.1% in hydroxychloroquine with the antibiotic, 4.3% in chloroquine and 6.5% chloroquine with the antibiotic.
To conclude, the study suggests that HCQ should not be used against COVID-19 outside of clinical trials at this point.
For more information, read our article on Is Hydroxychloroquine really effective against COVID-19?.
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