Major study of thousands of patients led by University of Oxford shows drug is ineffective
Hydroxychloroquine does not work against Covid-19 and should not be given to any more hospital patients around the world, say the leaders of the biggest and best-designed trial of the drug, which experts will hope finally settle the question.
“If you are admitted to hospital, don’t take hydroxychloroquine,” said Martin Landray, deputy chief investigator of the Recovery trial and professor of medicine and epidemiology at Oxford University. “It doesn’t work.”
Many countries have permitted emergency use of the drug for Covid-19 patients in hospitals, following claims from a few doctors, including Didier Raoult in France, that it was a cure, and the ensuing clamour from the public. President Donald Trump backed the drug, saying it should be given to patients, and later said he was personally taking it to protect himself from the virus.
Landray said the hype should now stop. “It is being touted as a game-changer, a wonderful drug, a breakthrough. This is an incredibly important result, because worldwide we can stop using a drug that is useless.”
The first results from the Recovery trial, which has been testing seven therapies for Covid-19, swiftly followed the retraction of a paper in the Lancet medical journal on Thursday night claiming that hydroxychloroquine was linked to an increased risk of death in Covid-19 patients. The authors of the paper withdrew it after the US company Surgisphere refused to cooperate with an independent audit of the data it had supplied for the study. A Guardian investigation had showed serious errors in the data and raised questions about Surgisphere and its CEO.
Supporters of the drug hailed the paper’s retraction, but the World Health Organization and countries that have authorised use of the drug are now likely to change their position.
The Recovery trial is a “gold standard” randomised controlled trial, designed to find an answer to a question by recruiting patients in similar circumstances either to take the drug or to take a placebo. Their doctors and the researchers do not know which ones are taking the genuine trial drug.