An anti-malarial drug controversially touted by President Donald Trump as a preventative treatment for COVID-19 was the subject of a study at Henry Ford Health System.
The study finds about 87% of its COVID patients treated using hydroxychloroquine recovered from the disease. That’s compared to roughly 74% who recovered and were not treated with the drug.
“For hydroxychloroquine to have a benefit it needs to be given before the patient suffers some of the severe immune reaction that can occur with COVID.” — Dr. Marcus Zervos, Henry Ford Health System
Dr. Marcus Zervos, an infectious disease physician at the health system, says the study on hydroxychloroquine differs from research conducted by other institutes.
“Patients were treated early,” Zervos says, “And for hydroxychloroquine to have a benefit it needs to be given before the patient suffers some of the severe immune reaction that can occur with COVID.”
Zervos says those likely to suffer heart complications were excluded from treatment with the drug, due to the high risk of side effects. He says there are currently no plans for a follow-up study.
Other researchers have critiqued the study, noting that patients were carefully selected and related treatments could have accounted for the benefits. The study follows the US Food and Drug Administration revoking emergency use authority for hydroxychloriquine, saying the effectiveness of the drug does not meet the requirements of the program.
“The emergency use authorization has been withdrawn for hydroxychloroquine in the United States,” says Zervos. “So the only way it can be used now even in a hospital setting would be in a protocol and we are working to start new protocols.”
Zervos says hydroxychloroquine was used on coronavirus patients in combination with other treatment methods. The FDA says hydroxychloroquine should not be used to treat COVID-19 outside a hospital setting.