Study Claims Hydroxychloroquine May Have Caused 17,000 Fatalities

( – Hydroxychloroquine is a very old and trusted drug. It was first approved for medical use in the US in 1955. While it is known primarily for its use to prevent and treat malaria, it is also used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. As with many pharmaceuticals, it has come under closer examination to see if it could be helpful to treat other conditions. New data suggests that such experimentation with hydroxychloroquine may have proven fatal to nearly 17,000 people across six countries.

Off-label use or the use of prescription drugs to treat something they have not been officially approved use for is a common medical practice. For example, semaglutide is being used off-label when prescribed for weight loss as it is actually a treatment for type 2 diabetes. Lorazepam is an anti-anxiety drug that is sometimes prescribed to cancer patients to help with nausea. During the pandemic, some believed that hydroxychloroquine could be used to prevent or treat coronaviruses.

Researchers from France and Canada have published a study in the upcoming February edition of the peer-reviewed medical journal Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, where they say that the use of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19 during 2020 could have contributed to the high number of excess deaths. They only studied data from March to July 2020 across the United States, Belgium, France, Turkey, Italy, and Spain. The researchers are careful to note that due to the limited scope of their study, their numbers could be much lower or much higher than the actual figures.

While the Food and Drug Administration granted a temporary emergency use for hydroxychloroquine for this off-label use on March 28, 2020, they subsequently revoked it on June 15, 2020. Some researchers suggested it could be effective in the treatment of coronaviruses, but later studies showed no significant benefits. For those patients believed to have died as a result of taking hydroxychloroquine during the pandemic, it is believed that their negative outcomes may be partially due to cardiac side effects, such as abnormal heart rhythms, which is listed as one of the more serious possible side effects for prolonged use.

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