The malaria drug hydroxychloroquine may still have a beneficial effect on corona patients if they are given it from the first day of their hospitalization. This is shown in a study by two Zwolle Isala doctors.
The risk of ending up in intensive care was more than half lower in patients who received the drug. However, use of the drug did not reduce covid-19 mortality. No apparent effect was seen in patients receiving the related chloroquine.
The study was carried out by the Zwolle internist-infectiologists Paul Groeneveld and Jolanda Lammers of the Isala hospital. They investigated the fare of 1100 corona patients who were admitted to fourteen Dutch hospitals in March and who were given hydroxychloroquine from day one.
These were exclusively people on covid wards. “Not too sick patients. At that early stage of the infection, we see a positive effect from the treatment with hydroxychloroquine, ”Lammers told NOS. Her colleague Groeneveld adds: “It’s actually just like pneumonia. Then you give antibiotics to prevent things from getting worse and people from having to go to IC. “
Hydroxychloroquine and ‘sister’ chloroquine are time-honored malaria drugs. Today, the pills are only used by a small group of rheumatism patients. At the beginning of the corona crisis, both drugs seemed to work against the new virus. Dutch hospitals administered them en masse. Worldwide hype arose, especially after leaders like Donald Trump praised the drug (hydroxychloroquine) as a ‘panacea’. Ace Pharmaceuticals from Zeewolde – the only producer of chloroquine in Western Europe – even received weeks of police surveillance after criminals had put it on their medicine.
Studies were soon published showing that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine do not work in covid patients and may even have a negative effect. After two months, Dutch hospitals abruptly stopped administering the drugs. That was the beginning of May.
Yet there is – also in the Netherlands – a small group of people who have continued to recommend hydroxychloroquine as a working drug against covid all this time. The figurehead of this movement is the Limburg GP Rob Elens, who claims to have cured ten of his patients last spring by using hydroxychloroquine and zinc. The Health Care Inspectorate ordered Elens to stop doing so.
Professor Andy Hoepelman, head of the infectious diseases department at UMC Utrecht, calls the study of his Zwolle colleagues at the NOS ‘very valuable’. Still, he thinks the age of hydroxychloroquine is over. “Most experts say the drug doesn’t work. In the United States, it has disappeared from the guidelines. A recent Amsterdam study shows that it has toxic side effects and no effect on mortality. ”
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