The antimalarial treatment hydroxychloroquine and a similar drug, chloroquine, appear to be associated with a higher risk of death and irregular heart rhythms among seriously ill coronavirus patients, researchers said in an analysis published in the Lancet, a respected medical journal, Friday.
With 96,000 patients at 671 hospitals around the world, the analysis was the biggest yet to examine the promises and pitfalls of drugs like hydroxychloroquine while treating coronavirus.
Researchers said they dug deep into the medical records of nearly 15,000 coronavirus patients who had been treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine between late December and mid-April, sometimes in combination with an antibiotic, within 48 hours of their diagnosis.
They found that treatments involving those drugs either alone or with antibiotics were more likely to be associated with a higher risk of death and heart arrhythmias when compared to the 81,000 patients in the control group, who didn’t receive any treatment involving an antimalarial.
There was a 34% increased risk of death among patients who were given hydroxychloroquine alone, and a 45% greater risk for those who received that drug in combination with an antibiotic. Those who took chloroquine both alone or in combination with an antibiotic, meanwhile, had a 37% increased risk of death.