COVID-19: Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine, BAD NEWS.

The most comprehensive study on the use of these 2 drugs, including 96,032 patients in multiple hospitals and multiple countries shows increased risk of death with either of these two drugs in patients hospitalized with COVID-19. This was a retrospective study but offers the most amount of data to date on the issue of clinical efficacy and risk. You can read the full article https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)31180-6/fulltext.

TreatmentDeath rateventricular arrhythmia
No drug9.30%0.30%
Hydroxychloroquine18%6.10%
Hydroxychloroquine plus Macrolide23.80%8.10%
Chloroquine16.40%4.30%
Chloroquine plus Macrolide22.20%6.50%
Macrolide is an antibiotic like Zithromax.
Differences between no drug and all drug treatment categories statistically significant.

This was not a randomized prospective controlled clinical trial. However the data were adjusted for:

age, sex, race or ethnicity, body-mass index, underlying cardiovascular disease and its risk factors, diabetes, underlying lung disease, smoking, immunosuppressed condition, and baseline disease severity.

So far it is the best information we have available.

There have been many physicians who have supported the use of these drugs without randomized controlled trials based on anecdotal reports in the medical literature. Given the desparate situation without a known effective drug that is understandable.

The authors note:

The absence of an effective treatment against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection has led clinicians to redirect drugs that are known to be effective for other medical conditions to the treatment of COVID-19. Key among these repurposed therapeutic agents are the antimalarial drug chloroquine and its analogue hydroxychloroquine, which is used for the treatment of autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.

However, the use of this class of drugs for COVID-19 is based on a small number of anecdotal experiences that have shown variable responses in uncontrolled observational analyses, and small, open-label, randomised trials that have largely been inconclusive.

 The combination of hydroxychloroquine with a second-generation macrolide, such as azithromycin (or clarithromycin), has also been advocated, despite limited evidence for its effectiveness.

This study is an important milestone, disappointing but illustrative of a common phenomenon in medicine.

Previous warnings about potential lethal heart rhythm issues were viewed with skepticism by armchair pundits claiming that there was not much data on sudden death related to use of these widely used drugs. Those pundits failed to understand that sudden death caused by prolonged QT interval (effect of these and many other drugs) cannot be diagnosed without an EKG during the event. When this occurs outside the hospital setting, or even in the hospital without a continuous EKG monitor on the patient, it goes unrecognized.

An important dictum in medicine is “first do no harm” (primum non nocere).

In the meantime, we do know what reduces risk:

Test/Trace/Isolate, social distance, MASKS4ALL, wash hands frequently, disinfect surfaces, show consideration for others. To understand why and how these measures can make a big difference you can go to this website. https://www.erinbromage.com/

In addition you can read a great article about the same topic here. https://www.newyorker.com/science/medical-dispatch/amid-the-coronavirus-crisis-a-regimen-for-reentry

I will close with the sermon on lifestyle and COVID-19.

  1. Avoid alcohol consumption (alcohol wreaks havoc with your immunity)
  2. Get plenty of sleep (without adequate sleep your immune system does not work well )
  3. You must follow good sleep habits
  4. Exercise, especially out of doors in a green space, supports the immune system
  5. Get some sunshine and make sure you have adequate Vitamin D levels.
  6. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in micronutrients.
  7. Practice stress reduction like meditation and yoga which improves the immune system
  8. Eliminate sugar-added foods and beverages from your diet. These increase inflammation, cause metabolic dysfunction, and suppress immunity.

THIS WEBSITE PROVIDES INFORMATION FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. CONSULT YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER FOR MEDICAL ADVICE.

Eat clean, drink filtered water, love, laugh, exercise outdoors in a greenspace, get some morning sunlight, block the blue light before bed, engage in meaningful work, find a sense of purpose, spend time with those you love, AND sleep well tonight.

Doctor Bob

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