US hospitals have ‘pulled way back’ on hydroxychloroquine use after studies identify safety risks

hydroxy
Credit: John Locher/AP

U.S. hospitals said they have pulled way back on the use of hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug touted by President Donald Trump as a COVID-19 treatment, after several studies suggested it is not effective and may pose significant risks.

Early hopes for the decades-old drug were based in part on laboratory experiments and its anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. But its efficacy has so far failed to pan out in human trials, and at least two studies suggest it may increase the risk of death.

Orders for the drug have dropped to a tenth of the late-March peak, to about 125,000 pills last week, said Vizient Inc, a drug buyer for about half of U.S. hospitals.

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Some European governments this week banned hydroxychloroquine use for COVID-19 patients. Dr. Thomas McGinn, deputy physician in chief at Northwell Health, New York’s largest healthcare system, told Reuters it decided to stop prescribing hydroxychloroquine at its 23 hospitals in mid-April, after clinical data began to emerge.

“People were in our hospitals, they were dying, and we wanted to do something,” he recalled. “But the minute the data came out … showing no benefit and potential harm, I think we all needed to step back,” he said.

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