A DRUG widely hyped by President Trump as a treatment for the novel coronavirus has shown no benefit in a large analysis of its use in U.S. veterans hospitals, results show.
The president had previously claimed hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug, could help fight the disease, but in recent days he has toned down such claims.
The nationwide study was not a vigorous experiment, but it did find that there were actually more deaths among those given hydroxychloroquine versus standard care.
In total, 368 male patients made up what is the largest look so far at hydroxychloroquine with or without the antibiotic azithromycin for COVID-19.
Grants from the National Institutes of Health and the University of Virginia paid for the study, which was posted online for researchers.
The medical records of the 368 male veterans who were confirmed to have been infected with coronavirus were analyzed as part of the study.
These individuals either died of COVID-19 or were discharged from Veterans Health Administration medical centers by April 11.
Around 28 percent of those given hydroxychloroquine plus usual care died, versus 11 percent of those getting routine care alone.
Hydroxychloroquine made no difference in the need for a breathing machine, either.
Researchers did not track side effects, but noted a hint that hydroxychloroquine might have damaged other organs.
Earlier this month, scientists in Brazil stopped part of a study testing chloroquine, an older drug similar to hydroxychloroquine, after heart rhythm problems developed in one-quarter of people given the higher of two doses being tested.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued new guidelines on Tuesday, which stated there was not enough evidence to recommend for or against chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19.
These guidelines did, however, advise against using hydroxychloroquine with azithromycin.
Dr. Nasia Safdar, medical director of infection control and prevention at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, said medical experts have been "rather underwhelmed" by the drug's effect on the few patients that have tried it.
Safdar added, "now I think that people have realized we don’t know if it works or not,” after admitting that patients had started asking about the drug follow Trumps initial promotions.
The NIH and others have more rigorous tests plans for the drug ahead, according to reports.
As of Tuesday, the coronavirus pandemic in the United States had resulted in more than 800,000 cases, causing more than 43,000 deaths.
Due to the number of tests available and methods of counting the dead, some have theorized that these numbers could be much higher.
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