A month ago the skeptical cardiologist detailed the potential for lethal cardiotoxicity of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) concluding:
- HCQ and chloroquine (CQ) have associated and well-documented, albeit rare cases of potentially lethal cardiotoxicity.
- The benefit of these drugs in the treatment of coronavirus infection is currently unproven.
- Data from high-quality randomized trials of HCQ treatment in patients with coronavirus is needed before we can assess whether the drug benefits outweigh its risk in COVID-19 patients.
The drugs had been approved by the FDA for emergency use authorization (EUA), many physicians and hospitals were using them for patients with COVID-19. Even more disturbing,, President Trump was enthusiastically promoting HCQ and revealed that he was taking it as a prophylaxis against COVID-19.
Intense demand for HCQ led to a shortage for patients who needed it for proven indications such as systemic lupus erythematosus.
Since I highlighted the drug’s cardiotoxicity a series of papers have either shown a lack of benefit or potential worsening of outcomes with these drugs. Recognizing this the FDA withdrew its EUA for HCQ and CQ yesterday.
On June 15, 2020, based on FDA’s continued review of the scientific evidence available for hydroxychloroquine sulfate (HCQ) and chloroquine phosphate (CQ) to treat COVID-19, FDA has determined that the statutory criteria for EUA as outlined in Section 564(c)(2) of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act are no longer met. Specifically, FDA has determined that CQ and HCQ are unlikely to be effective in treating COVID-19 for the authorized uses in the EUA. Additionally, in light of ongoing serious cardiac adverse events and other serious side effects, the known and potential benefits of CQ and HCQ no longer outweigh the known and potential risks for the authorized use. This warrants revocation of the EUA for HCQ and CQ for the treatment of COVID-19.
Fortunately, as more data became available over the last month hospitals which were previously routinely giving HCQ (and often azithromycin) dropped these drugs from their treatment protocols.
Hopefully, now we can get back to deliberately and scientifically validating the safety and efficacy of drugs for COVID-19. We still need more data from the dozens of ongoing randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on treatment.
Two large randomized controlled trials will be particularly helpful in determining the best treatment for SARS-CoV2 infection.
One of them, theRandomised Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY (RECOVERY) Trial published preliminary findings on 5 June 2020 showing a lack of benefit of HCQ.
In addition to HCQ, RECOVERY is analyzing treatment effects of the antivirals lopinavir-ritonavir, low-dose steroid therapy and interferon.
SOLIDARITY is an international clinical trial to help find an effective treatment for COVID-19, launched by the World Health Organization and partners.
The Solidarity Trial will compare four treatment options against the standard of care, to assess their relative effectiveness against COVID-19.