The malaria drug once touted as a “game changer” by President Donald Trump showed no evidence as a benefit for coronavirus patients, a new study finds.
As PBS News reported, the study involved 1,400 patients treated at Columbia University in New York City using hydroxychloroquine, which has been typically used as an anti-malarial drug but shown some promising potential in treating COVID-19 patients. The results of the study were published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, showing that the treatment is “not a panacea” for patients suffering serious effects from the COVID-19 infection.
While the report noted that this is an observational study instead of a rigorous academic one, the results are still seen as valuable given the still-growing field of knowledge about the new virus and how to treat it.
In the summary of their findings, researchers wrote that while they found no benefit to using the drug as a treatment, there could still be more stringent testing of hydroxychloroquine.
“It is disappointing that several months into the pandemic, we do not yet have results” from more rigid testing of the drug, they wrote.
The drug attracted national attention when Trump touted it during daily coronavirus briefings as a potential “game changer” in the treatment of critically ill patients. Trump suggested that doctors should look to the still-untested drug when treating patients, and even said that he “may take” hydroxychloroquine himself, despite not having COVID-19 and no medical evidence to support the idea that it could be taken as a means of preventing infection.
“If it were me — in fact, I might do it anyway. I may take it, okay? I may take it,” Trump said at an April press briefing, via Business Insider.
“And I’ll have to ask my doctors about that, but I may take it.”
Trump’s recommendations also led to warnings from public health experts against people taking the drug on their own. As The Inquisitr reported, public health officials in Nigeria reported a rise in the cases of chloroquine poisoning after Trump incorrectly said during a press briefing that the drug had been “approved” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In the days after this report, Arizona man died after his wife was left in critical condition after they had reportedly taken chloroquine phosphate, a variation of the drug that is used as a cleaning agent for fish tanks. The couple took the drug on their own, the report noted.