Two separate studies published in the latest issue of the top international medical journal, British Medical Journal (BMJ), finds that there is absolutely no benefit for COVID-19 patients in different stages of the disease who are treated with the anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ). While a large study from China with patients with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 showed difference in the outcome whether treated with or without HCQ, a separate study by researchers from France with COVID-19 patients in severe condition with pneumonia also showed absolutely no benefit from HCQ. In fact, this study reported adverse cardiovascular side-effects in the group that was treated with HCQ. An editorial entitled “Lack of efficacy of Hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19” published in BMJ today (May 19) discussed these two latest studies and the apparent lack of any effect of HCQ for COVID-19 patients (see below, also available at the link: https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/369/bmj.m2018.full.pdf). The BMJ also carried online an analysis (“Rapid Response”) by PBT president, Dr. Kunal Saha, on the continued irrational use of HCQ in COVID-19 putting the lives of COVID-19 patients at potential danger of developing heart failure or sudden death as warned by major international cardiac societies as well as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (see Dr. Saha’s article below, also can be viewed at https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1844/rapid-responses).
PBT already lodged a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking direction to the ICMR to implement precautionary measures for COVID-19 patients treated with HCQ to prevent injuries or death as a result of unproven HCQ therapy. The Apex Court directed the Solicitor General to place the PIL before the ICMR for consideration. Earlier this last week, ICMR sent an evasive response without taking any effective measures and PBT has written back to ICMR asking them to take concrete steps to protect COVID-19 patients treated with “off-label” HCQ.