There has been much debate on whether the antimalarial meds, hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and chloroquine, help decrease the severity of disease in patient who contract HCQ. Most of the studies have shown a benefit to taking the medications when started early. However, a recent study in the Lancet concluded the opposite.
The Lancet study was a multinational registry analysis using these drugs and possibly also using certain antibiotics called macrolides, such as Azithromycin. WE will refer to these as the “meds”. Total patients were 96,032 hospitalized patients who had COVID who were treated in the hospital. No out-patient data was collected, I.e. no early users of the meds.
Most of the patients enrolled in the study were from the United States (66%) and Europe (17%). The data was collected when the patients entered the clinics and were admitted to the hospital, then placed in a registry that went for data evaluation. Patients who received the meds within 48 hours of an established diagnosis of COVID by nasal swab. It did not include those who started treatment after 48 hours and who were in ICU.
Their conclusion was those who took the antimalarial drugs with or without the macrolides had higher morbidity and mortality compared to those patients who didn’t take them. However, some of their data actually did not support this conclusion.
The results of this study have rocked the medical institutions and has sent a myriad of questions regarding whether these drugs should or should not be prescribed for patients with COVID-19.
The authors admit some limitations of their study:
We cannot make firm conclusions from this study when the meds are used early in the disease. If the data can be confirmed, they may potentially worsen the disease if started later in the disease process. However, their data is rather confusing and has many limitations, making it difficult to draw good conclusions from the study results. They should be confirmed with further studies, especially controlled randomized trials before their conclusions can be believed.
 Mehra MR, Desai SS, Ruschitzka FR, P AN. Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis. The Lancet. Journal online. May 22, 2020. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)31180-6