Anti-malarial drug taken by Donald Trump linked to death risk

Hydroxychloroquine medication, for sale in a pharmacy. Source: AGIFP

A study in the medical journal The Lancet has linked the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to a higher risk of death in COVID-19 patients.

Malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is tied to increased risk of death in COVID-19 patients, according to a study published in medical journal The Lancet.

US President Donald Trump has been taking the drug as a preventative against the coronavirus despite medical warnings.

The Lancet study observed more than 96,000 people hospitalised with COVID-19, and showed that people treated with the drug, or the closely related drug chloroquine, had higher risk of death when compared to those who were not given the medicine.

A chemist displays hydroxychloroquine tablets in Mumbai, India.
A chemist displays hydroxychloroquine tablets in Mumbai, India.

Demand for hydroxychloroquine surged after Mr Trump touted its use as a coronavirus treatment in early April.

Earlier this week, he surprised the world by admitting he was taking the pill as a preventative medicine.

The Lancet study authors suggested these treatment regimens should not be used to treat COVID-19 outside of clinical trials until results from clinical trials are available.

The authors said they could not confirm if taking the drug resulted in any benefit in coronavirus patients.

Weeks ago, Mr Trump had promoted the drug as a potential treatment based on a positive report about its use against the virus, but subsequent studies found it was not helpful.

The US Food and Drug Administration in April issued a warning about its use.

The Lancet study looked at data from 671 hospitals, where 14,888 patients were given either hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, with or without the antibiotic macrolide, and 81,144 patients were not on any of the treatment regimens.

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