Chloroquine is continuously sparking off controversies in the fight against coronavirus… After several American studies, as well as French and Chinese studies, medical magazine The Lancet released, this May 22, 2020, a British study consistent with the previous ones and showing the uselessness of the treatment against Covid-19. A study the magazine has decided to distance itself from, explaining that “important questions” were looming about it.
What sparks off a controversy here are not the assessment of data included in the study, but their origin… "We cannot warrant the veracity of the sources of the primary data" the three authors said in a released published in the medical magazine. They went on explaining they wanted to carry out "independent audit" on the results and the origin of the data. An audit that never made it on Thursday June 4, as Surgisphere, the company that provided the data, refused to communicate them, alluding to confidentiality agreements with its clients.
"There are still questions without answers about Surgisphere and the data supposedly included in the study" the magazine says as they released on Tuesday June 2 a warning as an "expression of concern".
For the record, this disputed study explained, showing data, the negative side-effects of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment against Covid-19. Results that were going the same way as the previous trials, naming giving chloroquine – in addition to be useless – is risky for sick people.
This study included 96,032 patients in 671 hospitals across the world and has assessed the effects of the treatment on different groups of sick. 14,888 of them have been given chloroquine (1,868 patients), hydroxychloroquine (3,016 patients), a mix of chloroquine and macrolide (6,221 patients). The remaining 81,144 patients have been included in the control sample group. And results are indisputable: after controlling several confusing factors (age, gender, ethnic origin, heart disease, smoking and so on), the mortality rate balanced between 16.4% and 23.8% for groups treated against 9.3% for the control sample group including more patients.
The study explains this excessive death rate by the outbreak of severe side effects, mainly cardiovascular, and especially “severe ventricular arrythmias risk” as the authors of the study explain. A risk of arrythmias that doctors have particularly noticed in the group treated with the hydroxychloroquine/macrolide (antibiotic) mix, with a death toll between 4.3% and 8.1%. For the other sick treated, this rate goes up to 0.3%.
In France this study did not go unnoticed by Health Minister Olivier Véran, on Saturday May 23, 2020, the day after its release, the Health Minister announced in a tweet he wanted to review the regulations to prescribe chloroquine as a treatment against Covid-19.
Suite à la publication dans @TheLancet d'une étude alertant sur l'inefficacité et les risques de certains traitements du #COVIDー19 dont l'hydroxychloroquine, j'ai saisi le @HCSP_fr pour qu'il l'analyse et me propose sous 48h une révision des règles dérogatoires de prescription.— Olivier Véran (@olivierveran) May 23, 2020
Tweet reads: “After The Lancet has released a study alerting on the uselessness and the risks of some treatments against COVID-19 including hydroxychloroquine, I caught the HCSP to assess it and offers me within 48 hours a review of the derogatory prescription regulations”.
Today, the minister goes beyond and asks in a letter to the magazine a “review of the raw data as they have been delivered”. The government’s spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye reported on June 3.
As for the World Health Organization, they announced to suspend all clinical trials about this treatment until further notice. Please also note that The Lancet is not the only magazine to reconsider the data of the study since as our peers at Courrier International, The New England Journal of Medicine has also announced they were warning people.
A treatment that despite its results will keep on sparking off debate within the scientific community. All looks are now turning to the creation of a vaccine, the best hope to eliminate coronavirus.