More than 100 Americans have died after taking hydroxychloroquine in a misguided effort to treat or prevent coronavirus so far this year, a new report reveals.
In the first six months of 293 people died after taking hydroxychloroquine, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s review of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) adverse events reporting system.
That’s compared to just 75 in the first half of 2019.
Much like public health experts use the number of ‘excess’ deaths to estimate how many people died of coronavirus but have not yet been counted, the Sentinel looked at data on those other 218 deaths.
The reason ‘more than half’ of those people had been taking hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine was COVID-19.
It comes after the overwhelming majority of big, credible studies on using the malaria drug to treat coronavirus showed – despite Trump’s repeated optimism over it – that it offered no benefit to people with the viral infection.
More than 100 people died after taking hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, an analysis of adverse event data from the FDA reveals
Some of those studies were even stopped short due to concerns over its potential to cause fatal heart arrhythmias, or after the group given the drug began dying at higher rates than those given just supportive care.
When early studies suggested that hydroxychloroquine might have antiviral effects and improve recovery and survival odds for infected people, President Trump raved that it was safe – a conclusion he drew based on the fact that the drug is FDA-approved.
‘What do you have to lose?’ Trump asked as he encouraged the us of hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus.
The drug is indeed approved by the regulatory body to treat the mosquito-borne disease malaria and autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
To get that seal of approval, it did go through rigorous safety testing, but it also comes with a warning that it can cause heart arrhythmias that might be virtually unnoticeable in some, but lead to severe heart dysfunction and even death in others.
People with heart disease are also at greater risk of getting severely ill from or dying of COVID-19.
President Trump has urged people to try hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus, asking ‘what do you have to lose’ (file)
On Sunday, Admiral Brett Giroir said on Meet the Press that he ‘can’t recommend’ taking hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus treatment or prevention
Doctors may not prescribe hydroxychloroquine, even for its approved uses, to people with pre-existing heart conditions.
But after Trump’s endorsement, doctors began prescribing it left and right. The number of hydroxychloroquine prescriptions filled in one week in March was more than 2,000 percent higher than fills for the same drug a year prior.
As more studies warned of the alarming arrhythmias seen in trial participants treated with the drug and suspiciously high death rates, the FDA issued a warning that the drug should only be used to experimentally treat COVID-19 under the close supervision of a doctor.
By June, the agency revoked its emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus altogether.
But it may not have been enough to stop the drug from being used inappropriately, and with potentially deadly consequences.
Between January and June of 2020, there were 6,588 adverse events related to the drug reported to the FDA, and 6,223 of them ‘serious’ meaning they could left the epson hospitalized, disabled or dead.
That was about twice as many total adverse events as were reported in conjunction with the drug in 2019, and nearly three times as many ‘serious’ adverse events.
In recent weeks, three of the most prominent members of Trump’s own task force – Dr Deborah Birx, Dr Anthony Fauci and Admiral Brett Giroir – have warned against the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus.
But the drug needs to remain on the market. It’s an important preventive and treatment for malaria, and the only drug that brings relief for some lupus patients.
So long as it is approved for these uses, doctors can prescribe hydroxychloroquine to people with COVID-19, however inadvisable that may be.
If patients continue to be given the unproven drug to treat coronavirus, an excess of dangerous side effects or deaths linked to it seems doomed to persist, so it will be in the hands of providers to protect their patients.