Study: Treatment with hydroxychloroquine cut death rate significantly in COVID-19 patients

In a followup to our coverage of COVID-19 treatments, a new study published recently by Henry Ford Health System shows that treatment with hydroxychloroquine cut the death rate significantly in sick patients hospitalized with COVID-19 – and without heart-related side-effects.

The news comes after earlier studies that raised alarms about the safety of hydroxychloroquine were retracted by The Lancet and The New England Journal at the request of the authors of the studies due to flaws.

Closeup of COVID-19 coronavirusAccording to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, hydroxychloroquine (also known as hydroxychloroquine sulfate) is a U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)-approved arthritis medicine that also can be used to prevent or treat malaria. It is available in the United States by prescription only. The drug is sold under the brand name Plaquenil and it is also sold as a generic medicine. It is commonly used by patients with arthritis, lupus or other rheumatic conditions.

In a large-scale retrospective analysis of 2,541 patients hospitalized between March 10 and May 2, 2020 across the system’s six hospitals, the study found 13% of those treated with hydroxychloroquine alone died compared to 26.4% not treated with hydroxychloroquine. None of the patients had documented serious heart abnormalities; however, patients were monitored for a heart condition routinely pointed to as a reason to avoid the drug as a treatment for COVID-19.

The study was published last week in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, the peer-reviewed, open-access online publication of the International Society of Infectious Diseases.

Patients treated with hydroxychloroquine at Henry Ford met specific protocol criteria as outlined by the hospital system’s Division of Infectious Diseases. The vast majority received the drug soon after admission; 82% within 24 hours and 91% within 48 hours of admission. All patients in the study were 18 or over with a median age of 64 years; 51% were men and 56% African American.

“The findings have been highly analyzed and peer-reviewed,” said Dr. Marcus Zervos, division head of Infectious Disease for Henry Ford Health System, who co-authored the study with Henry Ford epidemiologist Samia Arshad. “We attribute our findings that differ from other studies to early treatment, and part of a combination of interventions that were done in supportive care of patients, including careful cardiac monitoring. Our dosing also differed from other studies not showing a benefit of the drug. And other studies are either not peer reviewed, have limited numbers of patients, different patient populations or other differences from our patients.”

Zervos said the potential for a surge in the fall or sooner, and infections continuing worldwide, show an urgency to identifying inexpensive and effective therapies and preventions.

“We’re glad to add to the scientific knowledge base on the role and how best to use therapies as we work around the world to provide insight,” he said. “Considered in the context of current studies on the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19, our results suggest that the drug may have an important role to play in reducing COVID-19 mortality.”

The study also found those treated with azithromycin alone or a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin also fared slightly better than those not treated with the drugs, according to the Henry Ford data. The analysis found 22.4% of those treated only with azithromycin died, and 20.1% treated with a combination of azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine died, compared to 26.4% of patients dying who were not treated with either medication.

“Our analysis shows that using hydroxychloroquine helped saves lives,” said neurosurgeon Dr. Steven Kalkanis, CEO, Henry Ford Medical Group and Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer of Henry Ford Health System. “As doctors and scientists, we look to the data for insight. And the data here is clear that there was benefit to using the drug as a treatment for sick, hospitalized patients.”

Overall, hospital system patients in the study experienced an 18.1% in-hospital mortality rate. Regardless of treatment, mortality was highest in:

• Patients older than 65,
• Patients who identified as Caucasian,
• Patients admitted with reduced oxygen levels,
• Patients who required ICU admission.

Patients who died commonly had serious underlying diseases, including chronic kidney and lung disease, with 88% dying from respiratory failure. Globally, the overall mortality from SARS-COV-2 is estimated to be approximately 6% to 7%, with mortality in hospitalized patients ranging between 10% and 30%, according to the study. Mortality as high as 58% has been seen among patients requiring ICU care and mechanical ventilation.

Dr. Zervos also pointed out, as does the paper, that the study results should be interpreted with some caution, should not be applied to patients treated outside of hospital settings and require further confirmation in prospective, randomized controlled trials that rigorously evaluate the safety and efficacy of hydroxychloroquine therapy for COVID-19.

“Currently, the drug should be used only in hospitalized patients with appropriate monitoring, and as part of study protocols, in accordance with all relevant federal regulations,” Dr. Zervos said.

Henry Ford Health System, as one of Michigan’s major academic medical centers with more than $100 million in annual research funding, is involved in numerous COVID-19 trials with national and international partners.

Henry Ford Health System is currently also involved in a prophylactic hydroxychloroquine study: “Will Hydroxychloroquine Impede or Prevent COVID-19,” or WHIP COVID-19. The study is a 3,000-person, randomized, double-blinded look at whether hydroxychloroquine prevents healthcare and frontline workers from contracting the COVID-19 virus. The WHIP COVID-19 team is working on expanding study sites while there is a lull in the number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Michigan. This is in preparation for a potential increase of COVID-19 cases as Fall flu season approaches, with additional sites available for convenient enrollment of healthcare workers and first responders. The WHIP COVID-19 team is also taking this gift of time to reach out to other areas of the world that are seeing a blossoming of cases: Brazil and Argentina. There are currently 619 people enrolled in the study, out of a target of 3,000.

MacDailyNews Take: Until we get a vaccine, this study’s finding is obviously very promising news of an effective treatment for COVID-19. The existence of such treatments helps everyone, of course, not to mention the macroeconomy and certainly Apple, which currently has a number of retail stores closed in various locations due to COVID-19 outbreaks. Good news on COVID-19 treatments is good news for people, for the economy, and, ultimately, for Apple.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers too numerous to mention for the heads up.]

69 Comments

  1. This is an observational study, not controlled, but it raises some interesting aspects fro continued study. It’s positive results are that it’s administered in a hospital setting under supervision, early in the onset of the disease (before certain critical stages).

    It’s NOT a “miracle”, should not be taken in cavalier fashion. It HAS killed people when misused, and they remain dead.

    To those bringing up Trump, he is irrelevant. Give him a Sharpie and a map so he can’t hurt himself or others.

    1. Yes, doctors “observe” that when they give someone suffering from COVID-19 hydroxychloroquine, the patient has a 50% less chance of dying.

      Of course, CNN says Orange Man Bad, so cheap, plentiful life-saving drugs must be BAD, too!

  2. IPOTUS is so Stupid and Dumb!!! He paid someone to take his SAT. He’s a fraud and a joke. The USA is making a management change in November!!!!!

  3. Trying not to get into the pro or anti-Trump camp:

    It is important to state that this study is not a randomized double-blind control trial (which is the gold standard as far as medical trials go). There have been several other studies (not counting the retracted Lancet study) that have shown that hydroxychloroquine is not effective against Covid-19. These were randomized double blind control trials. Due to a lack of benefits, both the WHO as well as NIH have halted their trials of this drug.

    Henry Ford is doing a randomized double-blind trial – but that is to evaluate the use of hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic treatment. Perhaps we will see good luck there.

    https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-halts-clinical-trial-hydroxychloroquine
    https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/04-07-2020-who-discontinues-hydroxychloroquine-and-lopinavir-ritonavir-treatment-arms-for-covid-19

    It should be noted that no trial other than the retracted Lancet study showed any significant increased risk of mortality due to side effects of hydroxychloroquine.

    On the flip side, it should be noted that the Henry Ford trial was looking at use of hydroxychloroquine in early stage patients whereas many of the others were looking at effectiveness in serious cases. Perhaps more work is needed on early-stage treatment using hydroxychloroquine but a randomized double-blind control trial has to be done to demonstrate effectiveness or lack thereof.

    1. Normally you shouldn’t have to worry about politics on this specific topic, but we have rabid supporters of a science averse and truth averse chief executive.

  4. Interesting that no one has mentioned Dexamethasone which is safe, has been shown to give around a 30% improvement in survival chances for those most seriously ill with the virus and and on ventilators. I presume it might have something to do with it having nothing to do with Trumps self serving PR network, can’t be trumpeted as a US world leading discovery or isn’t going to make millions for the US pharmatceutical sector and thus hasnt become a pathetic political football kicked around in persuit of childish and insane electoral advantage. So damned embarrassing.

  5. Absolutely never thought I would say this but you talk total common sense on this subject which stands out from many others on here. One study is never enough to determine the final solution to questions of this nature no matter how well respected or organised the study. Science is always updating our knowledge this one has added to previous reports and new ones will no doubt further add to that knowledge over tine which is why claims of conspiracy on here by the media or political parties truly are pathetic in their misunderstanding of the processes involved. Deliberately so I suspect. So just try to calm down people and show some objectivity for once as pointless as no doubt it is to request it from some.

  6. This is Mac related how?

    And of course it’s not stupid to ask how injecting bleach might be a potential cure. That was the first question I asked myself, followed by wondering how I might be able swallow a light bulb. Clearly questions only a (self-proclaimed) genius would ask.

    1. True, but if you have a diagnosed case you have a 7X better chance (1/5) of being hospitalized—followed by weeks of recovery and possible permanent damage—than the chance (1/38) of picking a winning number at roulette. People bet on roulette all the time, but there aren’t lives at stake.

      At least the death penalty only kills one person at a time. Persons infected with the coronavirus, even if they show no symptoms, will pass it along to an average 3.5 other people (who will transmit it to 12.25 people, and so forth, for well over 1000 in a month). That’s how one superspreader can overwhelm the medical resources of an entire community.

      1. What tripe!

        The tyranny of SMALL numbers. 2 is 2x 1 or 100% more than 1…

        The common flu can ALSO cause all the same damage, and does. It killed over 40,000 this year in the US alone, not counting all the ones that have been permanently injured by that virus…and guess what, the main strain this year is the SAME H1N1 Swine Flu that was a pandemic in 2009. But no one is talking about that.

        The fact is that you are more likely to die in a car accident than you are from COVID-19. Shall we all walk from now on and not drive since the risk is higher and people can die otherwise?

        Is COVID-19 potentially harmful…yes. BUT so is the flu. BUT MOST people do NOT have major issues from either. And no one freaks out about the flu.

        SO MUCH FEARMONGERING!

        (A text without a context, is a pre-text!)

          1. First, I never said this was the flu…though frankly, the flu produces most of the same symptoms, even the extreme ones. Second, the flu killed at least 40,000 in the SAME period (some estimates as high as 61,000). Third, you are missing the BIGGER picture… Over 300K+ have died from Cancer, another 300K+ from cardiovascular failure in the same period…and I can go on…

            Am I saying that COVID-19 does not kill (some)? No (then again, the numbers are highly suspect when it is REQUIRED by the CDC that if someone dies WITH COVID but NOT BECAUSE of COVID, EVEN if only suspected but NOT confirmed via testing (which that too has high false positives) they STILL mark the cause of death AS COVID (this is a NEW practice NEVER DONE like this before)).

            But so do many other things kill than COVID with FAR GREATER RISK. 2.8 MILLION people die EVERY YEAR in the US alone.

            So again, the GREATER CONTEXT for perspective is that the risk of dying from COVID-19 is LESS than dying from a car accident. Let that sink in for a moment…………………..How afraid are you about that? Why not shut down and lock up everyone to prevent those deaths?

            1. We have been through your Apples-to-oranges statistics before. In the last six months, COVID-19 has killed 130,000 individual named American residents. Looking at the comparable statistic for flu and pneumonia combined over the last six years, they have never killed more than 13,500 in 12 months; one year, it was only 3500. The 40,000 to 60,000 flu number you keep quoting is an estimate based on computer modeling taking into account underreporting. When we know enough to model coronavirus deaths based on excess mortality, the 260,000/year death rate may rise substantially, too.

              Spoiler alert: 260,000 is more than 3500, so coronavirus is more dangerous than seasonal flu.

            2. @Txuser you are doing the very thing you are accusing me of (apples-to-oranges statistics)…and you are intentionally inflating some number and deflating others AND taking out context just to try to make your point.

              This is not an honest discussion…never mind.

          2. P.S. safety measures have very little impact on HOW MANY die….only WHEN… The safety measures are more about not over-extending the capacity of the medical system….which was achieved A LONG TIME AGO!

  7. WARNING LABEL: “The Henry Ford health system is a faith based nonprofit organization and, as such, like Falwell’s Liberty U., likely gives religious doctrine primacy over science and critical thinking.”

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