Does hydroxychloriquine work against COVID-19?


What is fascinating about hydroxychloriquine is that is has been politicised. It is no longer a purely scientific question of efficacy, but has instead become a political belief.

We all know why.

During a press briefing on March 19, 2020; Trump promoted it as a potential treatment for COVID‑19. He also during that same press conference falsely claimed that another drug, chloroquine, had been FDA “approved very, very quickly” as a treatment for COVID‑19. What however sparks our interest here in hydroxychloriquine is that on May 18, 2020 he announced that he had been personally taking it to prevent COVID-19.

Our focus today is to step back from all that and focus down on the question of efficacy.

Does it work?

hydroxychloriquine – what do the clinical trials reveal?

Four large recent studies of hydroxychloriquine have been published in prestigious journals, two in the BMJ, one in JAMA, and one in the New England Journal of Medicine.

All four studies were negative – they showed no benefit from hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19.

Let’s do a quick fly over of each.

Study 1 – BMJ (May 14, 2020) – Clinical efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in patients with covid-19 pneumonia who require oxygen: observational comparative study using routine care data.

Results In the main analysis, 84 patients who received hydroxychloroquine within 48 hours of admission to hospital (treatment group) were compared with 89 patients who did not receive hydroxychloroquine (control group). Eight additional patients received hydroxychloroquine more than 48 hours after admission. In the weighted analyses, the survival rate without transfer to the intensive care unit at day 21 was 76% in the treatment group and 75% in the control group (weighted hazard ratio 0.9, 95% confidence interval 0.4 to 2.1). Overall survival at day 21 was 89% in the treatment group and 91% in the control group (1.2, 0.4 to 3.3). Survival without acute respiratory distress syndrome at day 21 was 69% in the treatment group compared with 74% in the control group (1.3, 0.7 to 2.6). At day 21, 82% of patients in the treatment group had been weaned from oxygen compared with 76% in the control group (weighted risk ratio 1.1, 95% confidence interval 0.9 to 1.3). Eight patients in the treatment group (10%) experienced electrocardiographic modifications that required discontinuation of treatment.

Conclusions Hydroxychloroquine has received worldwide attention as a potential treatment for covid-19 because of positive results from small studies. However, the results of this study do not support its use in patients admitted to hospital with covid-19 who require oxygen.

Study 2 – BMJ (May 14, 2020) – Hydroxychloroquine in patients with mainly mild to moderate coronavirus disease 2019: open label, randomised controlled trial

Results Of 150 patients, 148 had mild to moderate disease and two had severe disease. The mean duration from symptom onset to randomisation was 16.6 (SD 10.5; range 3-41) days. A total of 109 (73%) patients (56 standard of care; 53 standard of care plus hydroxychloroquine) had negative conversion well before 28 days, and the remaining 41 (27%) patients (19 standard of care; 22 standard of care plus hydroxychloroquine) were censored as they did not reach negative conversion of virus. The probability of negative conversion by 28 days in the standard of care plus hydroxychloroquine group was 85.4% (95% confidence interval 73.8% to 93.8%), similar to that in the standard of care group (81.3%, 71.2% to 89.6%). The difference between groups was 4.1% (95% confidence interval –10.3% to 18.5%). In the safety population, adverse events were recorded in 7/80 (9%) hydroxychloroquine non-recipients and in 21/70 (30%) hydroxychloroquine recipients. The most common adverse event in the hydroxychloroquine recipients was diarrhoea, reported in 7/70 (10%) patients. Two hydroxychloroquine recipients reported serious adverse events.

Conclusions Administration of hydroxychloroquine did not result in a significantly higher probability of negative conversion than standard of care alone in patients admitted to hospital with mainly persistent mild to moderate covid-19. Adverse events were higher in hydroxychloroquine recipients than in non-recipients.

Study 3 – JAMA (May 11, 2020) – Association of Treatment With Hydroxychloroquine or Azithromycin With In-Hospital Mortality in Patients With COVID-19 in New York State

Results  Among 1438 hospitalized patients with a diagnosis of COVID-19 (858 [59.7%] male, median age, 63 years), those receiving hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, or both were more likely than those not receiving either drug to have diabetes, respiratory rate >22/min, abnormal chest imaging findings, O2 saturation lower than 90%, and aspartate aminotransferase greater than 40 U/L. Overall in-hospital mortality was 20.3% (95% CI, 18.2%-22.4%). The probability of death for patients receiving hydroxychloroquine + azithromycin was 189/735 (25.7% [95% CI, 22.3%-28.9%]), hydroxychloroquine alone, 54/271 (19.9% [95% CI, 15.2%-24.7%]), azithromycin alone, 21/211 (10.0% [95% CI, 5.9%-14.0%]), and neither drug, 28/221 (12.7% [95% CI, 8.3%-17.1%]). In adjusted Cox proportional hazards models, compared with patients receiving neither drug, there were no significant differences in mortality for patients receiving hydroxychloroquine + azithromycin (HR, 1.35 [95% CI, 0.76-2.40]), hydroxychloroquine alone (HR, 1.08 [95% CI, 0.63-1.85]), or azithromycin alone (HR, 0.56 [95% CI, 0.26-1.21]). In logistic models, compared with patients receiving neither drug cardiac arrest was significantly more likely in patients receiving hydroxychloroquine + azithromycin (adjusted OR, 2.13 [95% CI, 1.12-4.05]), but not hydroxychloroquine alone (adjusted OR, 1.91 [95% CI, 0.96-3.81]) or azithromycin alone (adjusted OR, 0.64 [95% CI, 0.27-1.56]), . In adjusted logistic regression models, there were no significant differences in the relative likelihood of abnormal electrocardiogram findings.

Conclusions and Relevance  Among patients hospitalized in metropolitan New York with COVID-19, treatment with hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, or both, compared with neither treatment, was not significantly associated with differences in in-hospital mortality. However, the interpretation of these findings may be limited by the observational design.

Study 4 – New England Journal of Medicine (May 7, 2020) – Observational Study of Hydroxychloroquine in Hospitalized Patients with Covid-19

Results Of 1446 consecutive patients, 70 patients were intubated, died, or discharged within 24 hours after presentation and were excluded from the analysis. Of the remaining 1376 patients, during a median follow-up of 22.5 days, 811 (58.9%) received hydroxychloroquine (600 mg twice on day 1, then 400 mg daily for a median of 5 days); 45.8% of the patients were treated within 24 hours after presentation to the emergency department, and 85.9% within 48 hours. Hydroxychloroquine-treated patients were more severely ill at baseline than those who did not receive hydroxychloroquine (median ratio of partial pressure of arterial oxygen to the fraction of inspired oxygen, 223 vs. 360). Overall, 346 patients (25.1%) had a primary end-point event (180 patients were intubated, of whom 66 subsequently died, and 166 died without intubation). In the main analysis, there was no significant association between hydroxychloroquine use and intubation or death (hazard ratio, 1.04, 95% confidence interval, 0.82 to 1.32). Results were similar in multiple sensitivity analyses.

Conclusions In this observational study involving patients with Covid-19 who had been admitted to the hospital, hydroxychloroquine administration was not associated with either a greatly lowered or an increased risk of the composite end point of intubation or death. Randomized, controlled trials of hydroxychloroquine in patients with Covid-19 are needed.

There is more

Multiple independent trails are all confirming that hydroxychloriquine does not work for COVID-19. That however is not quite the complete story.

There is more scientific analysis out there.

Meta analysis (May 14, 2020): Hydroxychloroquine Versus COVID-19: A Periodic Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

This systematic review and meta-analysis not only indicated no clinical benefits regarding hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) treatment with/without azithromycin for COVID-19 patients, but the higher mortality rate and frequency of known HCQ adverse effects were observed for the HCQ/HCQ+AZM regimen group

This just four days ago this bombshell arrived.

Lancet (May 22, 2020): Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis

96,032 patients (mean age 53·8 years, 46·3% women) with COVID-19 were hospitalised during the study period and met the inclusion criteria. Of these, 14,888 patients were in the treatment groups (1868 received chloroquine, 3783 received chloroquine with a macrolide, 3016 received hydroxychloroquine, and 6221 received hydroxychloroquine with a macrolide) and 81,144 patients were in the control group

…when compared with mortality in the control group (9·3%), hydroxychloroquine (18·0%; hazard ratio 1·335, 95% CI 1·223–1·457), hydroxychloroquine with a macrolide (23·8%; 1·447, 1·368–1·531), chloroquine (16·4%; 1·365, 1·218–1·531), and chloroquine with a macrolide (22·2%; 1·368, 1·273–1·469) were each independently associated with an increased risk of in-hospital mortality. Compared with the control group (0·3%), hydroxychloroquine (6·1%; 2·369, 1·935–2·900), hydroxychloroquine with a macrolide (8·1%; 5·106, 4·106–5·983), chloroquine (4·3%; 3·561, 2·760–4·596), and chloroquine with a macrolide (6·5%; 4·011, 3·344–4·812) were independently associated with an increased risk of de-novo ventricular arrhythmia during hospitalisation.

Bottom Line

Not only does hydroxychloriquine not work against COVID-19, but those taking it had an increased risk of death.

Once this was realised, WHO suspended further trials.

Sadly, because Trump believes, those within the Cult of Trump also still believe despite all this solid evidence, and will view this suspension of further trials as a conspiracy.

Further Reading – hydroxychloriquine

Tweets – hydroxychloriquine

… and because it is a political belief, we also have stuff like the following that fly in the face of the evidence …

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