Corona drugs: hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine - more harm than good

Corona drugs: hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine - more harm than good

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Study: Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine do not help with COVID-19 treatment

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are being used to treat patients with COVID-19 during the current coronavirus pandemic. But a new study has now shown that these drugs have no use; on the contrary: those treated with it had a higher mortality rate and, in particular, an increased risk of cardiac arrhythmia.

US President Donald Trump recently called hydroxychloroquine a "gift from God." He is taking the malaria drug as COVID-19 prophylaxis. The effectiveness has not yet been proven. Rather, an investigation has now shown that this drug, like chloroquine, appears to pose a risk to patients.

Higher risk of life-threatening irregular heartbeat

According to a recent release, a research team from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School in Boston, in collaboration with the Cardiology Department at the Heart Center of Zurich University Hospital, evaluated the results of a worldwide observational study in patients hospitalized for COVID-19.

COVID-19 sufferers who were treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine (with or without a macrolide antibiotic) showed a higher risk of life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias.

The researchers' findings have been published in the renowned journal “The Lancet”.

Malaria drug is used to treat COVID-19

Hydroxychloroquine is a drug approved for the treatment of malaria. Currently, the drug is also used against the disease COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. It is not without risk.

The German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) issued a notice last month that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) reminded on its website of the risk of serious side effects when using hydroxychloroquine (and chloroquine).

Scientists from the United States and Switzerland have now discovered that these preparations can be dangerous.

No scientific evidence of effectiveness

"Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are of no benefit to patients hospitalized with Covid-19," said Mandeep R. Mehra, MD, executive director of the Center for Advanced Heart Disease, Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“The data indicate an increased risk of death. We also observed a quadrupling of the number of cardiac arrhythmias in COVID-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, ”said the researcher.

"There is no scientific evidence of the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in Covid-19," adds Prof. Frank Ruschitzka, head of the cardiology department at the heart center of the University Hospital Zurich.

“On the contrary, especially in Covid 19 patients with heart disease, we observed serious side effects, especially life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine should therefore no longer be used with COVID-19 before we have the results of further, currently ongoing randomized clinical studies. ”

Data from almost 100,000 people

The research team led by Mehra and Ruschitzka reportedly conducted the study using the Surgical Outcomes Collaborative database, an international registry that includes anonymized data from 671 hospitals from all continents.

The analysis took into account data from more than 96,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

Almost 15,000 of these patients had been treated with the malaria drug chloroquine or with hydroxychloroquine with or without antibiotics (macrolides such as azithromycin and clarithromycin) early on after the COVID-19 diagnosis.

The researchers found that a total of 10,698 patients who had received one or the other of these drugs died in the hospital (11.1 percent) and that 85,334 survived and could be discharged.

No definite conclusions yet

The research team compared this mortality rate to that of a control group considering age, gender and risk factors.

As reported in the release, the mortality rate in the control group was 9.3 percent. Chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine alone or in combination with a macrolide were therefore associated with an increased risk of hospital death with COVID-19.

Between four and eight percent of the patients in the therapy groups experienced a new arrhythmia, compared with 0.3 percent of the patients in the control group.

The study authors point out that the results of ongoing randomized clinical trials must be awaited before definitive conclusions can be drawn regarding the chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine hazard. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • University Hospital Zurich: No use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, (accessed: May 23, 2020), University Hospital Zurich
  • Mehra M et al .: Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis; in: The Lancet, (published: 22.05.2020), The Lancet
  • Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM): Hydroxychloroquine: Risk of serious side effects when used to treat COVID-19, (accessed: May 23, 2020), Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM)
  • European Medicines Agency (EMA): COVID-19: reminder of risk of serious side effects with chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, (access: 23.05.2020), European Medicines Agency (EMA)

Video: COVID-19, Hydroxychloroquine, and the Death of Evidence-Based Medicine (August 2022).