Scripps News – A drug former President Donald Trump repeatedly endorsed as a COVID-19 prevention and treatment method despite scientific objections has been linked to nearly 17,000 deaths in a new study.
During the first wave of the pandemic, hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug also used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, began being prescribed off-label to hospitalized patients, despite there being no evidence proving its efficacy or safety for treatment of the virus.
At the time, French infectious disease specialist Didier Raoult released a now widely-debated study claiming the drug had a 100% cure rate against COVID-19.
Trump soon started touting the drug as a “game changer,” saying once, “if things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody.”
But French researchers claim the use of hydroxychloroquine from March to July 2020 was associated with an 11% increase in COVID patients’ mortality rate and an estimated 16,990 deaths across six countries as a result.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration initially approved the emergency use of hydroxychloroquine for hospitalized COVID patients in March 2020, but months later — and following a clinical trial — the federal agency revoked authorization, partially in light of adverse cardiac events.
“As a result of their findings, the researchers point to the ‘hazard of drug repurposing with low-level evidence for the management of future pandemics.’ Most importantly, they say their study illustrates the importance of limiting off-label use of treatments until accurate data and evidence is produced.”
By the end of June, the NIH also ended its clinical trials into hydroxychloroquine after finding it was highly unlikely to benefit hospitalized COVID patients, and other studies and health experts came to the same conclusion.
Still, Trump doubled down on his support of the drug’s use, saying in August 2020 that the drug actually had “tremendous support” and that statements of its inefficacy were being used as a political tactic against him.
Months later, a study published in the National Library of Medicine found a correlation between Trump’s public advocacy of the drug and the amount of online searches and purchases of it …
Hydroxychloroquine use in the COVID-19 patient
“The role of HCQ as prophylaxis for COVID-19 in individuals exposed to SARS-CoV-2, was evaluated in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in the United States and Canada.
“This study enrolled 821 asymptomatic adults who had household or occupational exposure to someone with confirmed COVID-19.
“Participants received placebo or HCQ 800 mg once, followed by 600 mg in 6 to 8 hours, then 600 mg daily for 4 additional days. The incidence of new COVID-19 cases did not differ significantly between the 2 groups.” [emphasis added]
– Emily Littlejohn, DO, MPH, Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, September 2020