The new study, which is being published in the New England Journal of Medicine had certain limitations. However, doctors reported that the use of hydroxycholoquine neither lessened the need for patients requiring breathing assistance nor the risk of death.
“We didn’t see any association between getting this medicine and the chance of dying or being intubated,” lead researcher Dr. Neil Schluger told Reuters in a telephone interview.
“The patients who got the drug didn’t seem to do any better.”
Among patients given hydroxychloroquine, 32.3% ended up needing a ventilator or dying.
This is compared with 14.9 percent of patients who were not given the drug.
Doctors were more likely to give hydroxychloroquine to sicker patients according to reports.
Therefore, researchers at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Irving Medical Center adjusted the rates to account for that.
The hospital concluded that the drug may not have hurt patients, but it clearly did not help.
Hydroxychloroquine is a drug which is more commonly used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
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Last month, doctors at the US Department of Veterans Affairs reported that hydroxychloroquine did not help COVID-19 patients and might pose a higher risk of death.
That analysis of medical records showed a death rate of 28 percent when the drug was given in addition to standard treatments.
This is compared to 11 percent with standard care alone.
In the latest study, 811 patients got hydroxychloroquine and 565 did not.
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Because they were not randomly assigned to receive hydroxychloroquine or a placebo, “the study should not be taken to rule out either benefit or harm” for the drug, researchers said.
Randomized trials, the gold standard for tests of new therapies, should continue, they added.
But for now, “the guidance in our hospital has changed so we don’t recommend giving hydroxychloroquine to hospitalized patients,” said Dr. Schluger, chief of the division of pulmonary, allergy and critical care medicine at Irving.
Smaller studies, have suggested the drug could be useful in treating COVID-19 patients.
One hydroxychloroquine trial done in China, had suggested the drugs might be useful, “but these were tiny studies and not of good quality.
“People seized on them because patients were dying,” Dr. Schluger said.
Tensions between the US and China have been building after President Trump last week claimed the coronavirus originated in a laboratory in Wuhan.
This is something which Beijing has denied.
Over the weekend tensions between China and Washington came to an all high after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made similar claims.
The US official claimed there is “a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.”
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
However, China’s ambassador to the UK has previously attacked the British MPs and US President Donald Trump for criticising Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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