DETROIT, MI — A new study from the Henry Ford Health System may provide more legitimacy on the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.
Henry Ford published the peer-reviewed study on July 1, using a large-scale perspective analysis of patients from March 10 to May 2. The study looked over 2,500 hospitalized patients from the Henry Ford’s six hospitals, said Dr. Marcus Zervos, division head of infectious disease for Henry Ford Health System.
He said the health system wanted to investigate hydroxychloroquine because data showed that it had some clinical benefit and that it could reduce the inflammatory response in COVID-19 patients early in the pandemic.
“We thought that it would be important to us, or potentially important to use in our patients, (because) we didn’t have any other options that were proven,” Zervos said.
The study concluded that treatment with hydroxychloroquine significantly reduces the death rate of COVID-19 patients, Zervos said. Of those treated with hydroxychloroquine alone, 13% of them died, compared to the 26.4% who died and were were not treated with the drug. There was an overall 18.1% in-hospital mortality rate and patients were over the age of 18, with a median age of 64.
Many of the fatalities involved people with underlying health diseases, according to an article from Henry Ford Health System. These diseases included chronic kidney and lung disease. Mortality of hospitalized patients ranged between 10% and 30% worldwide.
The study also considered treatment using azithromycin. It found that 20.1% patients treated with both azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine died and 22.4% of those treated only with azithromycin died — compared a death rate of 26.4% for those not treated with either drug, according to the Henry Ford health article.
However, despite the findings of the study, the article also stated people should be cautious in their reaction to the seemingly encouraging results. Randomized, controlled trials would still be required to confirm hydroxychloroquine’s effectiveness in treating COVID-19.
“Currently, the drug should be used only in hospitalized patients with appropriate monitoring, and as part of study protocols, in accordance with all relevant federal regulations,” Dr. Zervos said in the article.
Hydroxychloroquine is a drug primarily used to treat malaria and lupus. The drug recently gained notoriety when President Donald Trump touted its effectiveness in treating COVID-19, despite warnings from the FDA, according to an article from USA Today.
Use of the drug to treat COVID-19 remains controversial. Many Michigan health systems, such as Michigan Medicine, Beaumont Health and St. Joseph Mercy decided to either not use hydroxychloroquine or stopped doing so after trying it, according to an article from the Detroit News.
Zervos said the Henry Ford health study was peer-reviewed, unlike some other studies. While some studies have shown that the drug is not effective, he said studies regarding the drug use different doses.
“These studies that have been negative seem to get more attention,” Zervos said. “But there are plenty of studies that have shown benefits have not received as much attention, not just our study.”