Unproven Preliminary Study on Hydroxychloroquine in the United States

Hydroxychloroquine did not seem to improve the lot of American patients with COVID-19, according to a relatively large ex-post study on this drug administered worldwide, but the efficacy of which remains to be rigorously confirmed or denied.

The preliminary study, made public Tuesday by its authors before being evaluated by the reading committee of a medical journal, covers 368 patients of the network of public hospitals for American veterans, and who are either dead or discharged hospitalization before April 11.

The proportion of patients who died was highest in the hydroxychloroquine alone group (28%), compared to the cocktail group (22%) and the group without HC (11%).

But this conclusion can be misleading, because the group of patients who received only hydroxychloroquine was initially sicker and more at risk than the other two groups: it contained more smokers and people with diabetes or cardiovascular and pulmonary history.

The authors statistically corrected this initial imbalance, and observed that “the increased risk of mortality in the hydroxychloroquine-only group persisted”.

The specificity of the patients treated must also lead to caution on any generalization to an entire population. The patients studied were all men, the majority black, a population hardest hit by the epidemic in the United States. The median age was advanced: over 65 years.

Hydroxychloroquine is one of the treatments used in multiple emergency countries in severe cases of COVID-19, but controversy exists over its impact.

The ideal, scientifically, is to carry out a randomized clinical trial, in which groups of comparable patients would follow different treatments, at random.

Such large-scale trials are underway, including the European Discovery trial, but the results are not yet known.

In the meantime, doctors are experimenting with molecules and treatments. Researchers can look a posteriori at the results, but in the absence of harmonized protocols on duration, doses, times of intervention, the degree of severity of cases at the start, it is difficult to draw reliable conclusions.

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Unproven Preliminary Study on Hydroxychloroquine in the United States - /10

Summary

Hydroxychloroquine did not seem to improve the lot of American patients with COVID-19, according to a relatively large ex-post study on this drug administered worldwide, but the efficacy of which remains to be rigorously confirmed or denied.

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