Hydroxychloroquine not particularly useful for COVID-19: CECC

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TAIPEI (CNA) — Treating COVID-19 patients in Taiwan with hydroxychloroquine, a drug commonly used to treat malaria, has not improved recovery times, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Tuesday.

Therefore, considering its limited usefulness and potential side effects, the CECC is discussing whether to remove the drug from its COVID-19 treatment guidelines, CECC advisor Chang Shan-chwen (張上淳) said at the center’s daily press conference.

COVID-19 patients in Taiwan treated exclusively with chloroquine, another antimalarial drug, tested negative for the disease after an average of 19.4 days, Chang said.

Patients who took a combination of chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and other antibiotics tested negative after 21.3 days, while those who took other kinds of medication tested negative after 22.5 days, Chang said.

This shows that hydroxychloroquine is not particularly useful in accelerating patient recovery from the disease, Chang said.

The drug was initially included in the CECC’s treatment guidelines after a French study showed promising results, Chang said, stressing that the guideline always noted the lack of clinical evidence regarding the drug’s efficacy in treating COVID-19.

Hydroxychloroquine has been repeatedly touted by United States President Donald Trump as a useful treatment against COVID-19, who even claimed to be taking it himself, despite various studies on the drug providing no evidence of its effectiveness.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted Monday that the organization was suspending the use of the drug in its worldwide COVID-19 trials pending further review.

The decision was made following a recent study, which showed that hydroxychloroquine usage in COVID-19 patients was not only not helpful but was actually associated with a higher chance of dying in hospital and abnormal heart rates, Tedros said.

The study which was based on an analysis of 96,032 COVID-19 patients in 671 hospitals across the globe, was published in the Lancet on May 22.

WHO officials will review the data so far collected in its trial “to adequately evaluate the potential benefits and harms from this drug,” before deciding whether to proceed, Tedros said.