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Touted by Donald Trump as COVID-19 treatment, HCQ tied to increased risk of death: Study

The authors said they could not confirm if taking the drug resulted in any benefit in coronavirus patients.

May 22, 2020 / 08:54 PM IST

A study published in medical Journal The Lancet shows that Malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine, which US President Donald Trump claims he has been taking, is tied to increased risk of death in COVID-19 patients.

The study, which observed over 96,000 people hospitalised with COVID-19, showed that people treated with the drug, or the closely related drug chloroquine, had higher risk of death when compared to those who had not been given the medicine.

Demand for hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), a drug approved decades ago, surged after Trump touted its use as a coronavirus treatment in early April. Earlier this week, he surprised the world by admitting he was taking the pill as a preventative medicine.

The Lancet study authors suggested these treatment regimens should not be used to treat COVID-19 outside of clinical trials until results from clinical trials are available to confirm the safety and efficacy of these medications for COVID-19 patients.

The authors said they could not confirm if taking the drug resulted in any benefit in coronavirus patients.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Weeks ago, Trump had promoted the drug as a potential treatment based on a positive report about its use against the virus, but subsequent studies found that it was not helpful. The US Food and Drug Administration in April issued a warning about its use.

The Lancet study looked at data from 671 hospitals, where 14,888 patients were given either hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, with or without the antibiotic macrolide, and 81,144 patients were not on any of the treatment regimens.

Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.
Reuters
first published: May 22, 2020 07:48 pm

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