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Hydroxychloroquine study on veteran patients shows no benefits, more deaths among patients using the drug

It's the largest study on the drug so far

Debajyoti Chakraborty/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A study of the effectiveness of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine on veterans hospitalized with COVID-19 showed that the drug had no positive impact on those who took it when compared to patients who did not, Politico reported.

The study included 368 patients and is the largest of its kind so far. There has been anecdotal evidence from doctors and patients in the United States and other countries that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China.

About the study: The researchers looked at the medical records for 368 patients who were hospitalized in veterans facilities with COVID-19, and who either died or were discharged by April 11.

The patients were divided into three categories: Those who took hydroxychloroquine along with standard COVID-19 care; those who took hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin along with standard care; and those who only received standard care.

The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the University of Virginia.

The results: The patients who took neither the hydroxychloroquine nor the azithromycin had the best outcomes; only 11% of those patients died. Of the patients who took only hydroxychloroquine, 28% died. Of those who took both drugs, 22% died. Researchers noted that the difference between that latter group and the ones who received standard care was small enough that other factors could've caused it.

Patients who took hydroxychloroquine were no less likely to need a ventilator to breathe, and researchers noted that the hydroxychloroquine may have caused some damage to organs.

Why this matters: Hydroxychloroquine has been suggested by President Donald Trump as a potentially promising treatment for COVID-19, and the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency authorization to allow it to be used for that purpose.

However, despite some encouraging accounts from patients and doctors, the drug's effects on COVID-19 patients have not been studied enough yet to certainly determine whether it is a broadly effective treatment for patients who contract the coronavirus. Politico reported that the NIH has other, more rigorous tests of the drug underway.

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