A new study out of New Jersey shows that the controversial antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine could help people with mild symptoms of COVID-19.
Andrew Ip, the director of the Division of Outcomes and Value Research at the John Theurer Cancer Center, cautioned people against jumping to conclusions about the drug, as it needs to be studied further before it is approved for use.
“If you’re going to say it’s a cure, that’s definitely crazy,” Ip said.
He did point out that the study found “less hospitalizations and not much toxicity” in patients who receive hydroxychloroquine, but “you still need to validate these findings” in a clinical trial.
Hydroxychloroquine became a political controversy last year when former President Donald Trump touted it as a cure for COVID-19.
“The nice part is, it’s been around for a long time, so we know that if it — if things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody,” Trump said, according to ABC News.
The drug was used in the early months of the pandemic as clinicians were desperate to help patients.
Physicians throughout the Hackensack Meridian Health system reported that of over 100 people who received the drug from March to mid-May, one in five ended up in the hospital.
One in three people who did not receive the drug were hospitalized.
Ip added that there are also no reports of cardiac arrhythmia after using the drug, which is a potential side effect.
“I’ve gotten messages from doctors saying [the study] supports what they are seeing in their clinics,” he said.
North Jersey doctor Stephen Smith said he was “encouraged” by the new study, adding that he has had trouble finding help analyzing available information because of the stigma against the drug after the political debate.
“[I]t’s harder to show that something works than to show that it doesn’t,” he said.
Ip added that while the study shows promise for people with acute symptoms, further studies need to be done before the drug can be approved for use.
“We make it clear we can’t recommend it to be given,” Ip said.
“This is only an observational study. We can only recommend it in the context of a clinical trial. There may be a benefit for using this drug in an outpatient setting.”
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