Hydroxychloroquine is not effective against COVID-19, extensive U.S. study shows

NewsGuard 100/100 Score

As the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to ravage across the globe, scientists are racing to develop an effective treatment or vaccine to combat the deadly disease.

Over the past few months, doctors resorted to repurposing medicines that have already been approved for other diseases to treat coronavirus patients. One drug that was widely used in the pandemic, hydroxychloroquine, has been found to be ineffective in treating the viral infection.

Based on an extensive study of nearly 1,400 patients with moderate to severe coronavirus disease at a New York hospital, the researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center found that patients who received the drug fared no better than those who did not.

This is the largest published study on the use of hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 patients. Previous studies have only included no more than 100 patients.

No effect on the risk of death

Hydroxychloroquine is a drug used to prevent and treat malaria. It has also been used to treat other diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis, which are autoimmune conditions. In the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, the drug has been used for patients to lower the rate of dying from the illness.

In the study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, the team of researchers looked at data on patients treated for COVID-19 in New York City, the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States. Some patients received hydroxychloroquine of an ‘off-label’ basis, a practice allowing doctors to prescribe a drug for an unapproved indication or in an unapproved age group, dosage, or route of administration.

An estimated 60 percent of the patients received the drug for about five days. The team found that hydroxychloroquine has no impact on the risk of the most severe outcomes from the disease. There is no lower rate of needing ventilators or a reduced risk of death during the study period.

“In this observational study involving patients with Covid-19 who had been admitted to the hospital, hydroxychloroquine administration was not associated with either a greatly lowered or an increased risk of the composite endpoint of intubation or death. Randomized, controlled trials of hydroxychloroquine in patients with COVID-19 are needed,” the authors wrote in the paper.

The study findings

The team wanted to see the link between hydroxychloroquine use and the development of respiratory failure that led to intubation or death.

To arrive at their findings, the researchers included the first 1,376 patients admitted in the hospital for COVID-19, which is caused by the pathogen severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). They excluded patients who had recovered, intubated, or died within 24 hours of being treated in the emergency department.

Of these patients, 811 patients or nearly 60 percent received the drug while 565 or 41 percent did not.

The team also found that the patients who received the drug were more severely ill at baseline than those who did not. Overall, 346 patients had a primary endpoint event wherein 180 patients were intubated ( al procedure involving the insertion of a tube into the body). Of these patients, 66 succumbed to the disease. Another 166 patients died without intubation.

“In the crude, unadjusted analysis, patients who had received hydroxychloroquine were more likely to have had a primary endpoint event than were patients who did not,” the team explained.

The team emphasized that the findings of the study show that the drug has no benefit for COVID-19 patients.

“We don’t think at this point, given the totality of the evidence, that it is reasonable to routinely give this drug to patients. We don’t see the rationale for doing that.” While the study did not randomly assign people to receive the drug or placebo and compare their outcomes, the large number of patients involved suggests the findings are solid,” Dr. Neil Schluger, chief of the division of pulmonary, allergy and critical care medicine at Columbia, said in a statement.

Side effects

In March, the drug received a positive response when it led to a reduced viral load, but only in a small and uncontrolled number of COVID-19 patients. Further, other studies have revealed that the drug may have side effects, including a prolonged QT interval in the heart, causing an irregular heartbeat.  Dysrhythmia or an irregular heartbeat may increase the risk of sudden cardiac arrest, which is fatal.

The side effects accompanying the use of the drug promoted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a warning in April.

Journal reference:
Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Written by

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Angela is a nurse by profession and a writer by heart. She graduated with honors (Cum Laude) for her Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Baguio, Philippines. She is currently completing her Master's Degree where she specialized in Maternal and Child Nursing and worked as a clinical instructor and educator in the School of Nursing at the University of Baguio.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Laguipo, Angela. (2020, May 11). Hydroxychloroquine is not effective against COVID-19, extensive U.S. study shows. News-Medical. Retrieved on April 16, 2024 from https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200511/Hydroxychloroquine-is-not-effective-against-COVID-19-extensive-US-study-shows.aspx.

  • MLA

    Laguipo, Angela. "Hydroxychloroquine is not effective against COVID-19, extensive U.S. study shows". News-Medical. 16 April 2024. <https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200511/Hydroxychloroquine-is-not-effective-against-COVID-19-extensive-US-study-shows.aspx>.

  • Chicago

    Laguipo, Angela. "Hydroxychloroquine is not effective against COVID-19, extensive U.S. study shows". News-Medical. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200511/Hydroxychloroquine-is-not-effective-against-COVID-19-extensive-US-study-shows.aspx. (accessed April 16, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Laguipo, Angela. 2020. Hydroxychloroquine is not effective against COVID-19, extensive U.S. study shows. News-Medical, viewed 16 April 2024, https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200511/Hydroxychloroquine-is-not-effective-against-COVID-19-extensive-US-study-shows.aspx.


  1. Spencer Stang Spencer Stang United States says:

    Did you notice that among the patients intubated HC treated were almost 4x more likely to survive (40% vs 11%)?

    Did you notice that the primary endpoint event was deceptive? By combining Intubation OR death they hid the improved mortality for intubated patients noted above.

    Did you notice this was a late-stage study without zinc which goes against the Zelenko protocol and the central philosophy behind treating EARLY with HC, Azithromycin & zinc?

    Did you notice that the title of your article is incredibly misleading? HC therapy is being successfully used around the world with increasing frequency and your title implies that it has been proven ineffective. Please consider a re-write.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
How did COVID-19 impact cancer incidence trends in the US?