Study suggests hydroxychloroquine may improve survival among hospitalized coronavirus patients

A recently released study by the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan suggests that the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine helps lower the death rate in hospitalized coronavirus patients.

An analysis of 2,541 patients hospitalized with coronavirus between March 10 and May 2, 2020, found that 13% of those treated with hydroxychloroquine died as compared to 26% who died that did not receive the drug, according to The Detroit News. The mortality rate for hospitalized patients ranges from 10% to 30% globally, while the overall in-hospital mortality for the study was 18.1%.

The study, which was conducted at six hospitals within The Henry Ford Health System in Southeast Michigan, was published Thursday in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.

"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 Dr. 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 And other studies are either not peer reviewed, have limited numbers of patients, different patient populations or other differences from our patients.

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration said the drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are unlikely to be effective in treating the coronavirus. Citing reports of heart complications, the FDA said the drugs' unproven benefits "do not outweigh the known and potential risks."

In a separate announcement, the FDA also warned doctors against prescribing the drugs in combination with remdesivir, the lone drug currently shown to help patients with COVID-19. The FDA said the anti-malaria drugs can reduce the effectiveness of remdesivir, which FDA cleared for emergency use in May.

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are frequently prescribed for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and can cause heart rhythm problems, severely low blood pressure and muscle or nerve damage. The agency reported in June that it had received nearly 390 reports of complications with the drugs, including more than 100 involving serious heart problems.

Read more about the study here and here.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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