By Spy Uganda
There is hope for the future after a surprising new study found that the controversial antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine helped patients better survive in the hospital.
A team at Henry Ford Health System in Southeast Michigan, said Thursday that its study of 2,541 hospitalized patients found that those given hydroxychloroquine were much less likely to die.
Dr. Marcus Zervos, division head of infectious disease for Henry Ford Health System, said 26% of those not given hydroxychloroquine died, compared to 13% of those who got the drug.
The team looked back at everyone treated in the hospital system since the first patient in March.
“Overall crude mortality rates were 18.1% in the entire cohort, 13.5% in the hydroxychloroquine alone group, 20.1% among those receiving hydroxychloroquine plus azithromycin, 22.4% among the azithromycin alone group, and 26.4% for neither drug,” the team wrote in a report published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.
It’s a surprising finding because several other studies have found no benefit from hydroxychloroquine, a drug originally developed to treat and prevent malaria.
President Donald Trump touted the drug heavily, but later studies found that not only did patients not do better if they got the drug, but they were more likely to suffer cardiac side effects.
The US Food and Drug Administration withdrew its emergency use authorization for the drug earlier this month and trials around the world, including trials sponsored by the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health, were halted.
“Our results differ from some other studies,” Zervos told a news conference.
“What we think was important in ours … is that patients were treated early. For hydroxychloroquine to have a benefit, it needs to begin before the patients begin to suffer some of the severe immune reactions that patients with Covid-19 can have,” he added.
“The combination of hydroxychloroquine plus azithromycin was reserved for selected patients with severe COVID-19 and with minimal cardiac risk factors,” the team wrote.
The Henry Ford team said they believe their findings show hydroxychloroquine could be potentially useful as a treatment for coronavirus.
“It’s important to note that in the right settings, this potentiality could be a lifesaver for patients,” Dr. Steven Kalkanis, CEO of the Henry Ford Medical Group, said at the news conference.