Researchers are skeptical over lack of shared data
June 3, 2020
Ars Technica – The Lancet medical journal on Tuesday issued an “expression of concern” over the validity of a recent study suggesting that the anti-malarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine raise the risk of death and heart complications in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
More than a hundred researchers have raised questions and skepticism about the data and analysis, even as researchers halted clinical trials in light of the study’s findings.
The two drugs at the center of the controversy have had a high profile during the pandemic, with many prominent figures—most notably President Donald Trump—promoting them as effective against COVID-19.
On May 18, Trump even told reporters that he was taking the drugs himself to prevent infection from the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.
Despite the publicity, there’s little evidence to support the efficacy of chloroquine or its analogue, hydroxychloroquine, to prevent or treat COVID-19.
Small studies done so far have only provided mixed and inconclusive results in COVID-19 patients.
The two drugs are only approved for use against malaria and autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. They have also long been linked to risks of heart complications.
The limited evidence for use against COVID-19 and the known risks led the Food and Drug Administration to issue a safety warning that the drugs “should be limited to clinical trial settings or for treating certain hospitalized patients.”
In the Lancet study—which was published May 22 and reported by Ars—researchers aimed to provide some clarity of the drugs’ effects in COVID-19 patients.
The researchers claimed to do so using the largest set of data to date, involving more than 96,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients from six continents. According to the authors, a thorough hashing of the data indicated that those taking either hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine had significantly higher risks of death … Read more.
Politics aside, hydroxychloroquine could (maybe) help fight COVID-19
Hydroxychloroquine and a related drug called chloroquine haven’t proven effective at treating COVID-19 in hospitalized people, but studies are under way to determine whether the drugs can prevent infection and illness.
May 26, 2020
Science News – President Donald Trump’s announcement that he is taking the drug hydroxychloroquine as a precaution against the coronavirus has once again thrown a decades-old antimalarial drug into the headlines.
There’s currently not enough data to say whether the drug can protect people from catching COVID-19 or from getting very ill if they do get infected with the virus. Studies of its use in treating very sick patients have shown mixed results and, in some cases, have led to dangerous side effects.
But now, with the president touting hydroxychloroquine even as scientists issue cautions about its use, the drug has found itself at the center of political divides, to the possible detriment of figuring out whether it works.
Nevertheless, researchers are busy testing hydroxychloroquine and a related drug called chloroquine to see if they can either prevent infection or keep illness from worsening.
Nearly 200 clinical trials are underway or planned around the world to test the drugs, either alone or in combination with other medications.
That includes at least 28 trials examining whether either drug can protect healthcare workers and others at high risk of getting COVID-19.
Here’s what scientists know about the drugs and their potential.
Why do researchers think chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine may prevent coronavirus infections?
Both are antimalarial drugs that also have well-known antiviral activity against many viruses, including SARS and MERS. At least they work against those viruses in lab dishes.
In lab tests, hydroxychloroquine can also stop SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, from infecting cells and decreases replication of viruses that do get inside cells, researchers report March 18 in Cell Reports. A February 4 report in Cell Research found that chloroquine also inhibits the virus … Read more.