Malaria drug hydroxychloroquine shows no benefit in another coronavirus study

Posted at 9:12 PM, May 07, 2020

A new study finds no evidence of benefit from a malaria drug widely promoted as a treatment for coronavirus infection.

Hydroxychloroquine did not lower the risk of dying or needing a breathing tube in a comparison that involved nearly 1,400 patients at Columbia University in New York.

The New England Journal of Medicine published the report on Thursday. Although the study is observational rather than a rigorous experiment, an editorial in the journal says it gives valuable information for a decision that hundreds of thousands of coronavirus patients have already had to make without clear evidence about the drug’s risks and benefits.

The drug for weeks was touted by President Donald Trump, despite skepticism from experts on the White House coronavirus task force.

"What do you have to lose?" Trump said earlier in April

At the April 4 briefing, Trump suggested he might take the drug.

"But I think people should — if it were me — in fact, I might do it anyway," Trump said. "I may take it. Okay? I may take it. And I’ll have to ask my doctors about that, but I may take it."

Hydroxychloroquine, a treatment that is commonly used to treat malaria and lupus, is provided as treatment for COVID-19 patients on an experimental basis.

The FDA previously gave an "emergency use authorization." An EUA allows doctors to use treatments by weighing potential benefits over potential risks.

"Hydroxychloroquine sulfate has not been approved for the treatment of COVID-19. It has been used experimentally to treat certain people with COVID-19, including hospitalized patients," the FDA said. "Hydroxychloroquine sulfate is being used to try and stop the COVID-19 virus from spreading inside your body. This may help you to get better."

The drug carries known side effects, including stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and headache, the FDA said.