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17,000 people may have died from hydroxychloroquine: Study

IANS Jan 08, 2024

Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) recommended by physicians for curing COVID-19 has been linked to nearly 17,000 deaths, according to a new study as quoted by media reports.

A new study conducted by French researchers has found that nearly 17,000 people across six countries may have died after being prescribed hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) while hospitalised with illness from March to July 2020 during the first wave of COVID-19, Newsweek reported.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a former US President urged Americans to take hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), an anti-malaria medicine that is also often used to cure rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, claiming that he had been taking the "miracle" drug.

The research published in the February issue of Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy shows that the increase in the number of deaths was driven by side effects like heart arrhythmia and muscle weakness.

The countries studied were the US, Turkey, Belgium, France, Spain and Italy, Newsweek reported.

The US reported the highest number of deaths with 12,739, followed by Spain (1,895), Italy (1,822), Belgium (240), France (199) and Turkey (95).

The researchers said that the number of deaths could be much higher as their study only looked at six countries between March and July 2020.

The scientists analysed various studies that tracked hospitalisations due to COVID-19 and exposure to the drug and risks related to it.

After the outbreak of coronavirus, scientists suggested that HCQ could be effective in treating the deadly virus, Newsweek reported.

On March 28, 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug for an emergency use authorisation and started clinical trials.

However, in June 2020, the FDA revoked the emergency use authorisation of the drug as several studies, including one by the New England Journal of Medicine, found HCQ had no benefit from COVID-19 and led to a significant surge in the risk of death. The FDA revoked the emergency use authorisation on June 15, 2020.

While one scientist called the HCQ a "magic bullet" against coronavirus, the President highlighted the "miracle" recovery made by a COVID-infected woman after using the drug, Newsweek reported.

"The nice part is, it's been around for a long time if things don't go as planned, it's not going to kill anybody," the ex-US President said during a COVID Taskforce briefing.

In a tweet on March 21, 2020, he added that "FDA has moved mountains" and that the drug would be put to use "immediately" as an antidote to curb COVID-19 transmission.

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