NIH panel warns against use of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19

22 April 2020 (Last Updated April 22nd, 2020 11:46)

A US National Institutes of Health (NIH) panel has recommended against the use of hydroxychloroquine in combination with azithromycin as a Covid-19 treatment.

NIH panel warns against use of hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19
NIH recommends against use of hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19. Credit: Tumisu from Pixabay.

A US National Institutes of Health (NIH) panel has recommended against the use of hydroxychloroquine in combination with azithromycin as a Covid-19 treatment.

Hydroxychloroquine, touted by President Donald Trump, could lead to heart issues and the combination may cause harm, said the panel.

The NIH panel involves around 50 doctors, pharmacy experts, and government researchers and officials, noted Bloomberg.

Representatives from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were part of the panel.

In a report, the panel said: “Although reports have appeared in the medical literature and the lay press claiming successful treatment of patients with Covid-19 with a variety of agents, definitive clinical trial data are needed to identify optimal treatments for this disease.”

Hydroxychloroquine demonstrated promising profile against Covid-19 in early studies. Currently, larger studies are assessing the malaria drug.

Recently, an analysis has been conducted to assess the drug’s impact on 368 Covid-19 patients from the Veterans Administration.

The study compared hydroxychloroquine alone or in combination with azithromycin to placebo. Data revealed more number of deaths among patients treated with hydroxychloroquine alone.

Furthermore, no clear difference was found in death rates among patients on the combination compared to those on placebo.

Citing a preprint report from a Brazilian study, Bloomberg added that higher doses of chloroquine, related to hydroxychloroquine, appeared to result in more fatalities.

The NIH panel added that if hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine is given alone, patients must be monitored for side effects, such as heart rhythm disturbances that can lead to sudden death.

Also, the panel noted insufficient clinical data to recommend for or against the use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine alone.

While the panel did not recommend the use of any therapies, it advised against the use of HIV drugs, including AbbVie’s Kaletra, due to ‘negative’ trial data and potential harm to patients.