A new study revealed that drugs used to treat malaria, which Donald Trump touted as the “game-changer” in the fight against the coronavirus, have a higher risk of causing death to patients being treated with them.
“It’s one thing not to have benefit, but this shows distinct harm. If there was ever hope for this drug, this is the death of it.” Eric Topol, a cardiologist, and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute explained.
The study, which was published on Friday in medical journal the Lancet, revealed that of 96,000 patients hospitalized with the coronavirus on six continents, those who received hydroxychloroquine or the closely related chloroquine had a higher risk of dying compared to those who were not treated with the drugs. Other health risks related to the drugs include irregular heart rhythm, or arrhythmia, that can lead to sudden cardiac death. Previous studies have also found very little benefits from the drugs. Instead, heart issues directly linked to them resulted in the Food and Drug Administration last month warning against the use of the treatment outside hospital settings or clinical trials.
The study was conducted by Mandeep Mehra, a Harvard Medical School professor and physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, as well as his colleagues. The study utilized retrospective analysis of medical records, as opposed to a controlled study where patients are randomly divided into treatment groups, a method more commonly used. However, the massive amount of data that was collected in the study paints a grim picture for the antimalarial drugs that many were depending on to be a cure for the deadly virus.
David Maron, director of preventive cardiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, also rebuked the drugs as beneficial coronavirus treatments, saying that “these findings provide absolutely no reason for optimism that these drugs might be useful in the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.”