Friday, August 14, 2020

Large study shows COVID-19 drug hydroxychloroquine is ineffective

There has been a lot of confusion regarding the effectiveness of the drug “hydroxychloroquine” in helping patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms. Most recently, a large study conducted by researchers in Brazil (published in The New England Journal of Medicine) reveals that hydroxychloroquine in combination with azithromycin (an antibiotic) didn’t improve the conditions of the hospitalized patients with moderate symptoms.

The study involved surveying 665 patients (divided into 3 groups) in 55 hospitals in Brazil. The first group of patients (217 patients) received hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, the second group (221 patients) received only hydroxychloroquine, and the third group (227 patients) was a control (not receiving either drug), only given with general clinical support.

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15 days later, 69%, 64%, and 68% of the first, second, and third group of patients (respectively) were sent home and didn’t face any limitations with breathing. The death rate was also consistent among all three groups, 3 percent. Though there were no positive effects of taking the drug, there were a few patients that faced more frequent changes in ECG tests and possible liver damage.

Hydroxychloroquine has faced a lot of skepticism from the public, especially when politicians continued in large favor of the drug for a long time. Until now, there is no FDA approved COVID-19 drug or vaccine. There have also been studies that have showed hydroxychloroquine causing cardiac toxicity in patients, some studies even claiming that the hydroxychloroquine causes more deaths than cures.

The World Health Organization (WHO) even halted hydroxychloroquine drug trials for a safety review. There are two sides to this debate, however. In June, researchers retracted a controversial study on the drug, after other scientists claimed that it could be misleading.

Until now, remdesivir seems to be the most potent candidate for an official COVID-19 drug. There have been studies that showed that remdesivir can shorten patient hospital stays and help people recover faster. Remdesiver is a drug developed by Gilead Sciences originally for the Ebola outbreak.

All of this proves that there is still a lot we don’t know about hydroxychloroquine. There are still many more studies being conducted by scientists around the world regarding the effectiveness of the drug in various circumstances and combinations. We won’t know until more data is revealed at the end of ongoing studies.

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