Dr. Anthony Fauci announced on Wednesday that the drug hydroxychloroquine is ineffective in treating patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
“The scientific data is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy for it,” said Fauci. Dr. Fauci, a prominent member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, is a top expert on COVID-19 in America.
Hydroxychloroquine is typically used to treat arthritis and prevent malaria. President Trump began to promote the use of the drug to treat the coronavirus in March, causing prescriptions for it to surge by nearly 2000%. Earlier this month, President Trump mentioned that he was taking the drug as a prophylactic, despite recommendations against it from a panel of experts convened by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The drug has several side effects including stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and headaches. However, the panel also warned against taking a “combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin,” because of an association with “QTc prolongation in patients with COVID-19,” which could cause adverse cardiac effects.
While President Trump and most of his administration continue to encourage the use of hydroxychloroquine, many global officials disagree. The World Health Organization has suspended its trial of hydroxychloroquine in treating patients diagnosed with COVID-19 due to new research from The Lancet that the drug causes serious heart rhythm problems.
The study from The Lancet found that the was no benefit of taking hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 patients. They also found an association between taking the drug and an increase in in-hospital deaths and the frequency of ventricular arrhythmias when used to treat COVID-19.
Scientists, however, have begun to raise concerns about this study. An open letter from 180 scientists around the world questioned the report, noting inconsistent data. The average daily doses of hydroxychloroquine in the study were higher than those recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The scientists also criticized the data from Australian patients, noting that it did not match data from the Australian government. While some of the data has since been corrected, the report is still under scrutiny.
France has also banned the use of hydroxychloroquine due to similar safety concerns.
More trials have emerged using other drugs, specifically Remdesivir. The drug, initially produced by Gilead Sciences in 2009, is a broad-spectrum antiviral medication used to treat hepatitis C. It has also been used in trials to treat the Ebola virus. While the drug has produced some positive results in treating patients with the coronavirus, none have been substantial enough to encourage widespread use of the drug.
A lot is still unknown about hydroxychloroquine and its effects. Currently, the FDA has not approved any drugs to safely and effectively treat the coronavirus.