New Study Says Hydroxychloroquine Can Improve Coronavirus Survival Rates

In this photo illustration, tablets on a blister pack of Plaquinol (Hydroxychloroquine) are displayed.
Buda Mendes / Getty Images

A new study flies in the face of much of the previous research on the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, finding that the medication was able to help some patients survive better who were hospitalized with the novel coronavirus.

A group of researchers at Henry Ford Health System in Michigan found that of just over 2,500 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, those given the controversial drug were less likely to die, CNN reported.

“Overall crude mortality rates were 18.1 percent in the entire cohort, 13.5 percent in the hydroxychloroquine alone group, 20.1 percent among those receiving hydroxychloroquine plus azithromycin, 22.4 percent among the azithromycin alone group, and 26.4 percent for neither drug,” the study revealed.

Essentially, as Dr. Marcu Zervos, who led the study, explained, 26 percent of those who didn’t get hydroxychloroquine died, while 13 percent of those who got the drug didn’t.

The research contradicts numerous previous studies that showed hydroxychloroquine had little impact as a treatment for the virus, prompting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to pull its emergency authorization that allowed the drug to be used off-label to treat the disease.

The FDA said that there wasn’t enough evidence to support its use and that the risks of taking the medication — such as adverse heart issues — outweighed the benefits. Zervos said his team had carefully monitored patients to watch for any heart issues, given the risk.

Some experts who looked at the study warned that it doesn’t follow some of the same quality standards of previous studies that showed the drug’s inefficacy. They also hypothesized that the use of other drugs, such as the steroid dexamethasone, may have improved the survival rate for some of those patients.

Some others were critical of the lack of random treatment, as patients were selected based on criteria that they had formulated in advance.

“Our results do differ from some other studies,” Zervos said. “What we think was important in ours… is that patients were treated early. For hydroxychloroquine to have a benefit, it needs to begin before the patients begin to suffer some of the severe immune reactions that patients can have with COVID.”

The study concluded that hydroxychloroquine may be a potential option for some people in the fight to save lives, given the right set of circumstances. CEO of the Henry Ford Medical Group, Dr. Steven Kalkanis, noted that he believes the study doesn’t contradict other research, but suggests that there may be a right time and place to realize its benefits.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci listens during the daily coronavirus briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on April 09, 2020 in Washington, DC.
  Alex Wong / Getty Images

The news could be a boon for those impacted by the disease, as it continues to surge in parts of the U.S. Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned that with the recent rise in cases, the country could be looking at 100,000 new cases a day in the near future.