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Hydroxychloroquine has ‘no effect’ against Covid-19, studies find

The antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine has no effect on the survival rate of patients with Covid-19 and might even increase the risk of adverse effects, recent studies have suggested

A French study, published last week in the BMJ, looked at patients in hospital with pneumonia due to Covid-19, 84 of whom received hydroxychloroquine and 97 who did not. This comes after the drug received worldwide attention as potential treatment for Covid-19.

After 21 days, the research found no significant difference in survival rates without transfer to the intensive care unit between the treated and control groups (76% and 75%, respectively). Overall, 89% of the treatment group and 91% of the control group survived in that time period.

A Chinese study, also published last week in the BMJ, found that the antimalarial drug did not clear the virus more quickly in patients with mainly mild-to-moderate Covid-19, when compared to those receiving standard care, and also raised concerns about adverse effects.

It stated: ‘Data from our trial do not provide evidence to support the use of hydroxychloroquine [in patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19], particularly considering the increased adverse events.’

The researchers in China assigned 150 hospital patients with Covid-19 to receive either hydroxychloroquine plus standard care or just standard care.

On day 28, tests revealed similar rates of Covid-19 in both groups, although adverse events – particularly gastrointestinal events – were more common in those who received hydroxychloroquine (20% and 9%).

US president Donald Trump sparked controversy this week when he said he has been taking hydroxychloroquine for about two weeks, following public hype about the drug as a coronavirus treatment.

Hydroxychloroquine was developed as antimalarial but is also used to treat conditions like lupus and arthritis.

Another recent study found that renin-angiotensin aldosterone system inhibitors – taken by some patients with hypertension – do not impact the severity of Covid-19, as Pulse’s sister title Nursing in Practice reported.

Mounting evidence has also indicated that men and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people are disproportionately affected by Covid-19.

Earlier this week, the UK’s chief medical officers added anosmia – the loss of taste and smell – to the list of symptoms that should prompt people to self-isolate due to possible Covid-19.