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Malaria drug fails Covid-19 cure test

By Graham Kajilwa and Anyango Otieno | April 20th 2020 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Governor Mike Sonko passes through a sanitising booth shortly after its launch at Kencom bus stop in Nairobi on Sunday, April 19, 2020. [David Njaaga, Standard]

A drug taunted to have the potential to treat Covid-19 has failed clinical trials conducted in three countries.

The study, which was conducted in four hospitals, has shown that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, both retired malaria drugs, have no efficacy against Covid-19 patients with severe symptoms.

In one of the trials conducted in France, some of the patients who received the drug recorded an irregular heart beat and the administration had to be discontinued.

A total of 181 patients took part in the clinical trials as reported in the study titled 'No evidence of clinical efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in patients hospitalised for Covid-19 infection and requiring oxygen: results of a study using routinely collected data to emulate a target trial.'

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All the patients studied had pneumonia as a result of Covid-19.

“We found that HCQ (hydroxychloroquine) treatment at 600 mg per day added to standard of care was not associated with a reduction of admissions to Intensive Care Units or death seven days after hospital admission, compared to standard of care alone,” states the study published by MedRxiv.

The study indicated that the rate of acute respiratory distress syndrome among the patients did not decrease, making it no different than those patients who were not taking the drug.

“Our population of patients hospitalised because they required oxygen is very similar to that reported by others, and the percentage of patients transferred to the ICU was similar to that reported in a Chinese cohort of 138 patients hospitalised for Covid-19 pneumonia,” it adds.

A similar study was also conducted in China and Brazil. Both countries disqualified the drug due to heart-related complications and failure of patients to recover in record time, compared to those not given the treatment regimen.

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine had been touted as the best remedy for Covid-19. It had received backing from US President Donald Trump and clinical trials are underway in the country that has so far recorded more than 735,287 cases.

In France, of the 181 patients in the study, 84 received hydroxychloroquine within 48 hours of admission while 97 did not.

“In the weighted analysis, 20.2 per cent of patients in the HCQ group were transferred to the ICU or died within seven days versus 22.1 per cent in the no-HCQ group,” the study’s findings read. “In the HCQ group, 2.8 per cent of the patients died within seven days versus 4.6 per cent in the no-HCQ group,” states the study report.

The study noted that one of the limitations of the trials was that the effectiveness of an antiviral drug depends on how soon it is administered, which might have played a role in the outcomes.

The study found that HCQ did not significantly reduce admission to ICU or death at day seven after admission for patients with pneumonia due to Covid-19.

“These results are of major importance and do not support the use of HCQ in patients hospitalised for a documented SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia,” states the report.


Covid-19 chloroquine US President Donald Trump
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