A drug promoted by former US President Donald Trump to cure COVID-19 has been linked to nearly 17,000 deaths, according to a new study. During the COVID pandemic, Trump urged Americans to take hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), an anti-malaria medicine that is also often used to cure rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, claiming that he himself had been taking the “miracle” drug.
After the outbreak of coronavirus, scientists suggested that HCQ could be effective in treating the deadly virus. On March 28, 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug for an emergency use authorisation and started clinical trials.
While one scientist called the HCQ a “magic bullet” against coronavirus, Trump highlighted the “miracle” recovery made by a COVID infected woman after using the drug.
“The nice part is, it’s been around for a long time…if things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody,” the ex-US president said during a COVID Taskforce briefing. In a tweet on March 21, 2020, he said that “FDA has moved mountains” and that the drug would be put to use “immediately” as an antidote to curb Covid transmission.
However in June 2020, the FDA revoked the emergency use authorisation of the drug as several studies, including one by New England Journal of Medicine, found HCQ had no benefit on COVID and led to significant surge in the risk of death. The FDA revoked the emergency use authorization on June 15, 2020.
Drug usage linked to increased risk of death
A new study conducted by French researchers has found that nearly 17,000 people across six countries may have died after being prescribed hydroxychloroquine while hospitalized with the illness from March to July 2020 during the first wave of COVID. The research published in the February issue of Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy shows that increase in the number of deaths was driven by side effects like heart arrhythmia and muscle weakness.
The countries studied were the US, Turkey, Belgium, France, Spain, and Italy.
The US reported the highest numbers of deaths with 12,739, followed by Spain (1,895 deaths), Italy (1,822 deaths), Belgium (240 deaths), France (199 deaths), and Turkey (95 deaths).
The scientists analysed various studies that tracked hospitalisations due to COVID-19 and exposure to the drug and risk related to it.
The researchers said that the number of deaths could be much higher as their study only looked at only six countries between March and July 2020.