Hydroxychloroquine 'Is Not a Treatment for COVID-19. It Doesn't Work.'

The antimalarial drug is being removed from United Kingdom's RECOVERY trial evaluating COVID-19 therapies.


A British research team has concluded that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment for COVID-19 and has halted its use in the United Kingdom's RECOVERY trial. That trial was established in March to evaluate the efficacy of various medicines for the treatment of COVID-19.

The Independent Data Monitoring Committee for the trials conducted an unblinded review of the hydroxychloroquine data. Based on that review, the researchers have concluded that "there is no beneficial effect of hydroxychloroquine in patients hospitalised with COVID-19." Martin Landray, one of the principal investigators, told reporters: "This is not a treatment for COVID-19. It doesn't work."

According to the statement from the RECOVERY trial investigators,

A total of 1542 patients were randomised to hydroxychloroquine and compared with 3132 patients randomised to usual care alone. There was no significant difference in the primary endpoint of 28-day mortality….There was also no evidence of beneficial effects on hospital stay duration or other outcomes.

These data convincingly rule out any meaningful mortality benefit of hydroxychloroquine in patients hospitalised with COVID-19.

"The RECOVERY Trial has shown that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment in patients hospitalised with COVID-19," said Peter Horby, the chief investigator for the trial, in the statement. "Although it is disappointing that this treatment has been shown to be ineffective, it does allow us to focus care and research on more promising drugs."

While the RECOVERY researchers was looking into hydroxychloroquine's effects on hospitalized patients, an American-Canadian team of researchers was concluding that the drug also does not work as preventive treatment.

Based on some observational studies, some proponents of hydroxychloroquine remain enthusiastic about the possibility that adding zinc will boost the drug's efficacy. Forthcoming results from ongoing trials will eventually corroborate or refute that lingering hope.

In the wake of the now scandalously discredited observational hydroxychloroquine study published on May 22 in The Lancet, these results should help clinicians, patients, the public and policymakers make better decisions about how best to treat COVID-19.