Trump backs away from drug he touted as 'game-changer' as largest study yet finds it may increase risk of death from COVID-19

Trump backs away from drug he touted as 'game-changer' as largest study yet finds it may increase risk of death from COVID-19
Image via Screengrab.

The largest study of the Trump-touted malaria drug hydroxychloroquine yet found no benefits in treating patients with COVID-19. In addition, it recorded more deaths among patients who received the treatment than those who did not.


About 28% of male veterans who received hydroxychloroquine and standard care at Veterans Health Administration medical centers died, while only 11% of those that only received routine care, according to a study by researchers at the Columbia VA Health Care System in South Carolina, the University of South Carolina and the University of Virginia School of Medicine. The study has been submitted to the New England Journal of Medicine. However, it has not yet been peer-reviewed, according to the Associated Press.

The researchers looked at the health records of 368 male veterans who were hospitalized with confirmed cases of the new coronavirus. The study also looked at outcomes for patients that received both hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin, a combination repeatedly touted by President Donald Trump. It found that 22% of those patients also died, or twice the rate of patients who did not. The study similarly found no difference in patients who needed a ventilator.

"We found no evidence that use of hydroxychloroquine, either with or without azithromycin, reduced the risk of mechanical ventilation in patients hospitalized with COVID-19," the researchers wrote. "An association of increased overall mortality was identified in patients treated with hydroxychloroquine alone. These findings highlight the importance of awaiting the results of ongoing prospective, randomized, controlled studies before widespread adoption of these drugs."

A Brazilian study published on MedRxiv, a pre-print server for studies awaiting peer review, was also halted earlier this month after 11 of 81 coronavirus patients receiving high doses of hydroxychloroquine died.

Trump has suddenly gone quiet on the drug after repeatedly promoting it at his coronavirus news briefings. The president touted a small French study hyped by Fox News, claiming it had a 100% success rate using the drug in combination with azithromycin to treat the coronavirus. But the study's publisher has since said the research did not meet its standards, and The Guardian reported that researchers excluded several patients who died or were taken to the intensive care unit from the results.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also quietly deleted "unusual" guidance for doctors about using the drug. The CDC now warns that "there are no drugs or other therapeutics approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prevent or treat COVID-19."

Trump has not mentioned the drug since last Tuesday, when he bragged that the government had sent states 28 million doses of hydroxychloroquine, according to Politico. Fox News hosts that have repeatedly promoted the drug have largely stopped talking about it, as well.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.