Dr. Robin Armstrong holds a bottle of hydroxychloroquine.
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
Two studies published recently medical journals found that the anti-malaria medication hydroxychloroquine failed to help hospitalized coronavirus patients.
The studies, both observational, looked at the outcomes of more than 2,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients in New York collectively.
Hydroxychloroquine got attention early on in the pandemic as a potential treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. It has not been approved by the FDA for the treatment of COVID-19.
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We just got more evidence that a potential coronavirus treatment might not help hospitalized patients.
Two observational studies, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that among thousands of hospitalized coronavirus patients, those who received the antimalarial medication hydroxychloroquine didn’t fare better or worse than patients who didn’t receive the drug.
An observational study published Monday in JAMA examined 1,438 patients hospitalized between March 14 and 28 in New York state.
It found that those who received hydroxychloroquine, the antibiotic azithromycin, or both hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin didn’t have meaningfully lower rate of in-hospital deaths compared to patients who didn’t receive the drugs. About 70% of hospitalized patients included in the study were given hydroxychloroquine alone or with azithromycin.
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The study also reported that cardiac arrest was more common in patients who received both hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin compared to those who received neither drug.
In NEJM, an observational study looked at 1,376 patients admitted to Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, 811 of who were given hydroxychloroquine. It found that administering hydroxychloroquine was not associated with an increased or lowered risk of intubation or death compared to those who didn’t receive hydroxychloroquine.
The patients who received hydroxychloroquine tended to be more severely ill than those who did not receive the drug. Authors of both studies noted that randomized controlled trials — which assign patients either to the medication or a placebo control at random —are needed.
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Early on in the pandemic, the drug caught the eyes of doctors, experts, and the Trump administration as a potential coronavirus treatment. There were some early, promising results regarding the drug published in late March from two small trials coming out of France and China.
Since then, additional studies have cast doubts on how effective the drug might be in treating the novel coronavirus. A clinical trial taking place in Brazil was halted in April after a spike in deaths among patients who had received the drug.
The drug has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
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