A combination of drugs touted by President Donald Trump and some medical researchers over the past month as a potentially effective treatment for COVID-19 actually increase the risk of cardiac death in patients, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health.
The institute, led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is also on the White House coronavirus task force, recommended against the use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, an antibiotic, as a combination treatment for COVID-19. From NPR:
“The combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin was associated with QTc prolongation in patients with COVID-19,” the panel said.
QTc prolongation increases the risk of sudden cardiac death.
The recommendation against their combined use would seem to fly in the face of comments made by President Trump suggesting the combination might be helpful. On March 21, for example, the president described them in a tweet as having a “real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.”
The NIH panel did not recommend for or against the use of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine alone for treatment of COVID-19, citing insufficient clinical data.
Despite anecdotes from patients and doctors about the effectiveness of drugs such as chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine, and remdesivir, there are still no proven treatments for COVID-19, and research and testing are ongoing.
“At present, no drug has been proven to be safe and effective for treating COVID-19,” NIH guidelines read. “There are no Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs specifically to treat patients with COVID-19. Although reports have appeared in the medical literature and the lay press claiming successful treatment of patients with COVID-19 with a variety of agents, definitive clinical trial data are needed to identify optimal treatments for this disease.
“Recommended clinical management of patients with COVID-19 includes infection prevention and control measures and supportive care, including supplemental oxygen and mechanical ventilatory support when indicated,” the guidelines continue.