An antimalarial drug touted by President Donald Trump as a “game changer” in the treatment of Covid-19 significantly increased the risk of death and potentially fatal heart problems among hospitalized patients, in a new and largest analysis yet of use of this medicine published Friday.
The study, which was led by an Indian American professor at Harvard Mandeep Mehra, covered 96,000 patients at 671 hospitals on 6 continents.
“I wish we had had this information at the outset,” Mehra told The Washington Post, “as there has potentially been harm to patients.”
After controlling the data for age, gender, ethnicity and underlying medical conditions, the analysis found that the risk of mortality was 34% higher among patients administered hydroxychloroquine and 137% higher was the chances of developing heart arrhythmias.
The mortality risk was even higher at 45% among patients given the antimalarial drug along with an antibiotic — a combination that the US president has promoted with great enthusiasm. The risk of developing heart arrhythmias was significantly higher. Chloroquine fared just as dismally.
An earlier observational study of 1,400 Covid-19 patients in New York state hospitals had shown no significant benefit of hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic among hospitalized patients and had, in fact, pointed higher risk of cardiac arrest among these patients.
The new findings come just days after President Trump revealed he had progressed from promoting the drug cocktail to consuming them, with the consent of his White House physician. He started on a two-week regimen after two White House staffers had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Trump told reporters Thursday he still has a day to finish the course. He had not commented on the last two studies, but has called one before, any analysis of patients on Veteran Affairs hospital as “false” and called it the work of people who are “not friends of the administration”.
President Trump continued to push for expedited opening of the country, with an eye on the November elections when he seeks a second term. Defending his decision to order a ban on travelers from China, Trump said Thursday, “They came in and we did the right thing. We would have lost millions of lives. We did the right thing, but now we’re opening up again. .”
All 50 states are now partially open as the deadly virus has continued to take a toll on the country. Fatalities went up by 1,263 in the last 20 hours to 94,729 and infections rose by 25,294 to 1.57 million.
Among those killed was Wilson Roosevelt Jerman, who was the longest serving White House employees. He was 91 and had served 11 presidents. His granddaughter told reporters Jerman has started as a cleaner and rose to become a doorman and butler. He retired in 2012. He died last week.
“With his kindness and care, Wilson Jerman helped make the White House a home for decades of First Families, including ours,” Michelle Obama, the former first lady, said in a statement. “His service to others –– his willingness to go above and beyond for the country he loved and all those whose lives he touched –– is a legacy worthy of his generous spirit. We were lucky to have known him. Barack and I send our sincerest love and prayers to his family.” Tributes came from other former first families as well.