The antimalarial drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were linked to a significantly higher risk of death and heart ailments in a new study published by The Lancet. President Donald Trump has repeatedly championed the controversial medications and recently revealed that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine prophylactically for over a week.
The study looked at 96,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients across the globe and found that those who took the drug were more likely to develop heart arrhythmia, which can lead to sudden death. It's the largest study to date to look at the benefits and drawbacks of the drugs.
The study found that nearly 15,000 patients were treated with one of the two drugs, either alone or with antibiotics.
For those who received hydroxychloroquine alone, there was a 34 percent increase risk of death. Additionally, there was a 137 percent increased risk for dangerous arrhythmia.
Patients who took the combination of drugs had a 45 percent increased mortality risk and 411 percent increased risk of serious arrhythmia.
Trump has suggested that hydroxychloroquine, along with an antibiotic, could be a game-changing combination in the fight against the pandemic.Those who took chloroquine alone had a 37 percent increased risk of death and 256 percent increased risk for arrhythmia, and chloroquine with an antibiotic resulted in 37 percent increased mortality risk with a 301 percent increase of serious heart issues.
As The Washington Post reports, the large sample size and the method used to conduct the study make it highly reliable in the eyes of many experts.
Eric Topol, a cardiologist and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, said that the study puts the nail in the coffin for those who had hoped to use the drug to treat people infected with COVID-19.
"It's one thing not to have benefit, but this shows distinct harm," he said. "If there was ever hope for this drug, this is the death of it."
The director of preventive cardiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, David Maron, echoed this sentiment.
"These findings provide absolutely no reason for optimism that these drugs might be useful in the prevention or treatment of COVID-19."Steven Nissen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, said that the drug "is maybe harmful and that no one should be taking it outside of a clinical trial."
Former FDA chief scientist Jesse Goodman warned that the study doesn't show clear cause and effect, but rather correlation and called the results "very concerning."
The study doesn't address using the drug prophylactically, as Trump claims to be, or for those who are not ill enough to be hospitalized.