Admitting there is evidence of truth in something is sometimes hard, especially when passions and politics collide vehemently disagreeing if a medication is beneficial for treating patients with coronavirus.
Despite the flip-flopping and heated debate of whether hydroxychloroquine helps or hurts those infected with COVID-19, a new study has given it a green light showing it helps by reducing the death rate. The observational study, published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, found coronavirus patients treated with this malaria drug had higher survival rates than patients not treated with the drug.
Use early on is most beneficial
A crucial and essential finding was confirmed from this study: In order for hydroxychloroquine to be of benefit, it must be given early on once a patient is diagnosed and before they develop any severe immune reactions. This important step is necessary since hydroxychloroquine works by reducing inflammation and interfering directly with the virus. The earlier it’s given the more effective it’ll be in saving lives.
The research was conducted at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit which included more than 2,500 COVID-19 patients with a median age of 64. Findings showed that patients treated with hydroxychloroquine by itself had a 13.5% mortality rate; patients treated with both hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, had a 20% mortality rate; and patients not treated with either drug had a 26% mortality rate. The cause of death was broken down with 88% succumbed due to respiratory failure, 8% died from cardiopulmonary arrest, and 4% died from cardiac arrest.
Other researchers also see hope in using hydroxychloroquine. In May, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease started a Phase 2b clinical trial enrolling 2,000 adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 to evaluate if the drug together with the antibiotic azithromycin, can reduce hospitalization and death from the virus.
Despite new clinical trial startups, hydroxychloroquine is still coming under intense scrutiny with many critics including the FDA declaring it unsafe for widespread use.
The politics of using hydroxychloroquine
Ever since President Trump stepped into the hydroxychloroquine controversy by announcing he was taking it as a prophylaxis to prevent contracting COVID-19, the political football was set in motion. Liberal news media promptly pounced on Trump’s decision downplaying the possibility of this drug’s potential for saving coronavirus patient’s lives. He was mocked relentlessly by the media for using it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi feigned concern over his health, referring to him as “morbidly obese.” Her sidekick Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer also chimed in calling him, “reckless.” However, POTUS has remained COVID-free, always testing negative for the virus, I’m sure much to their chagrin.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, doctors desperate to save patients lives resorted to using hydroxychloroquine. It was soon noticed that when used early on, patients recovered much quicker from the infection resulting in fewer deaths. Many of these doctors tried to relay this message to the public but often were quickly shut down. Others were strongly cautioned against using the drug because of potential changes to heart rhythms as a deadly side effect.
Adding to the continued dispute, recently the FDA withdrew its emergency use authorization for the drug and certain clinical trials, sponsored by the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health, were stopped. Complicating matters even more were two large studies – one of which raised safety concerns of the drug – were retracted from The New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet, after researchers could not vouch for accuracy of their sources and found irregularities in the data.
When science disagrees
There’s an old joke that states, ask 10 doctors a question and you’ll get 11 answers. A perpetual disagreement between scientists, as is the case with hydroxychloroquine, only adds to the confusion undermining our trust in science. Debates over science are nothing new. It’s been happening for years. However, science should encourage both agreement and disagreement. And as evidence builds from more studies finding hydroxychloroquine to be an important piece of the puzzle in fighting COVID-19, I’m hopeful eventually we can find a way to agree.
Dr. Marcus Zervos, the division head of infectious disease for Henry Ford Health System admitted that “our test results differ from other studies.” He emphasized that “just because our results differ from other published, it doesn’t mean those studies were wrong. What it simply means is when looking at the nuanced data of which patients actually benefited and when, we might be able to further unlock the code of how this disease works. It’s important to note, that in the right settings, this potentially could be a lifesaver for patients.” Dr. Zervos also stated that all patients were monitored for any heart problems during the study.
I appreciate Dr. Zervos’ honesty; Hydroxychloroquine is not for every patient infected with COVID-19. Any patient sick enough to be hospitalized or on a ventilator, likely will not be helped with this medication. Research has demonstrated this to be true. However, for individuals diagnosed who are asymptomatic or with mild symptoms, hydroxychloroquine can literally be a lifesaver when given before symptoms escalate.
What bothers me most is the fact hydroxychloroquine worked this whole time. The media said it would literally kill you if you took it simply because POTUS promoted it as a cure. If only we could set politics aside by working together for a common good and had known sooner, thousands of lives likely would have been saved. Unfortunately, because of the media’s obsession with harming the president literally resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths. This is such a tragedy that could have been avoided. Instead, politics took over science and the American people paid the price.
For once, can we put politics aside? Can we not admit lives have been saved by hydroxychloroquine? Let’s also admit while it’s not for everyone, for the right individuals, this medication can mean the difference between life and death. Failure to do so means more lives lost that could have been avoided.