Hydroxychloroquine & COVID-19: the Evidence

It’s amazing how many people there are on social media who seem completely convinced that hydroxychloroquine is a totally effective remedy for Covid-19.

In a (probably vain) attempt to stem the tide of gullibility I’m sharing this link to an article in The Lancet.

If you can’t be bothered to read the paper here is the summary of the conclusions:

We were unable to confirm a benefit of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, when used alone or with a macrolide, on in-hospital outcomes for COVID-19. Each of these drug regimens was associated with decreased in-hospital survival and an increased frequency of ventricular arrhythmias when used for treatment of COVID-19.

It’s not a properly randomised trial (which probably should be done at some point) but this study does support the view that hydroxychloroquine has no therapeutic value against COVID-19. Why then have so many fallen for the myth that it has?

Update: June 4th the Lancet article referred to above has now been retracted…

5 Responses to “Hydroxychloroquine & COVID-19: the Evidence”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    Claims that chloroquine (with or without a hydroxyl radical attached) are some help against SARS-CoV-2 came from this paper published on February 4th:

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41422-020-0282-0

    although this study is in vitro rather than in vivo. Chloroquine is a fairly generic antiviral drug that increases the pH necessary for virus/cell fusion. There was also this work reported in mid-March from France:

    https://www.connexionfrance.com/French-news/French-researcher-in-Marseille-posts-successful-Covid-19-coronavirus-drug-trial-results

    The UK banned the export of chloroquine phosphate on February 25th and of hydroxychloroquine on March 13th:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/medicines-that-cannot-be-parallel-exported-from-the-uk#history

    This drug is out of patent and therefore relatively inexpensive, which would make it attractive if it proved effective and an entire population was at risk. It was not wholly irrational to hope, at least some weeks ago, that it could help. Nor does the new Lancet study settle the matter, for it is based on persons who are already pretty ill (mortality proved to be 12%); so the use of this drug as a preventative or to try to stop mild cases worsening cannot reliably be inferred from this data. Also the study does not look at hydroxychloroquine in conjunction with zinc supplements; chloroquine acts to pump Zn across cell membranes, and intracellular Zn exerts an antiviral effect. I have no idea what the truth is but I don’t think the matter is settled yet and I welcome further studies.

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