Henry Ford Health System Study: Hydroxychloroquine Lowers COVID-19 Death Rate

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DETROIT, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) – A Henry Ford Health System study shows the controversial anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine helps lower the death rate of COVID-19 patients and without heart related side effects, according to The Detroit News.

The results were published Thursday in International Journal of Infectious Diseases.

“Our analysis shows that using hydroxychloroquine helped saves lives,” said Steven Kalkanis, CEO, Henry Ford Medical Group and Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer of Henry Ford Health System. “As doctors and scientists, we look to the data for insight. And the data here is clear that there was benefit to using the drug as a treatment for sick, hospitalized patients.”

The study analyzed 2,541 patients hospitalized between the system’s six hospital between March 10 and May 2. The study found 13% of the patients treated with hydroxychloroquine died while 26.4% of the patients who did not receive the drug died.

Patients treated with hydroxychloroquine at Henry Ford met specific protocol criteria as outlined by the hospital system’s Division of Infectious Diseases. The vast majority received the drug soon after admission; 82% within 24 hours and 91% within 48 hours of admission. All patients in the study were 18 or over with a median age of 64 years; 51% were men and 56% African American.

“The findings have been highly analyzed and peer-reviewed,” said Marcus Zervos, division head of Infectious Disease for Henry Ford Health System, who co-authored the study with Henry Ford epidemiologist Dr. Samia Arshad. “We attribute our findings that differ from other studies to early treatment, and part of a combination of interventions that were done in supportive care of patients, including careful cardiac monitoring. Our dosing also differed from other studies not showing a benefit of the drug. And other studies are either not peer reviewed, have limited numbers of patients, different patient populations or other differences from our patients.”

Overall, hospital system patients in the study experienced an 18.1% in-hospital mortality rate.

Regardless of treatment, mortality was highest in:

  • Patients older than 65
  • Patients who identified as Caucasian
  • Patients admitted with reduced oxygen levels
  • Patients who required ICU admission.

Patients who died commonly had serious underlying diseases, including chronic kidney and lung disease, with 88% dying from respiratory failure.

Henry Ford Health System has been working on multiple clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine, the Detroit News reported which including one that is testing whether the drug can prevent COVID-19 infections in first responders who work with coronavirus patients. The first responder clinical trial was trumpeted by Trump administration officials early in the pandemic.

Dr. Zervos also pointed out, that the study results should be interpreted with some caution, should not be applied to patients treated outside of hospital settings and require further confirmation in prospective, randomized controlled trials that rigorously evaluate the safety and efficacy of hydroxychloroquine therapy for COVID-19.

“Currently, the drug should be used only in hospitalized patients with appropriate monitoring, and as part of study protocols, in accordance with all relevant federal regulations,” Zervos said.

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