An American panel of experts has warned against using drugs touted by US President Donald Trump as "game-changers", due to safety concerns.
The group, convened by the influential National Institutes of Health (NIH), recommended against using a combination of the malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin to treat Covid-19 patients "because of the potential for toxicities" related to heart issues.
Mr Trump has repeatedly claimed that the pair are the most promising coronavirus treatments, despite warnings from Dr Anthony Fauci, of the NIH, that there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support the assertion.
"[The two drugs] taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine," Mr Trump recently wrote on Twitter. But in the set of new coronavirus guidelines published by the US federal agency, the NIH added that there remains "insufficient clinical data to recommend either for or against" using hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine alone.
The NIH advice cautioned that where the drugs are used, "clinicians should monitor the patient for adverse effects, especially prolonged QTc interval". QTc prolongation increases the risk of sudden cardiac death.
An article published on the preprint website Medrxiv on Tuesday found that the risk of death was greater for those who received hydroxychloroquine than for those who did not.
Researchers analysed data on 368 US military veterans from Veterans Health Administration (VA) and found that 28pc of 97 patients given hydroxychloroquine along with standard care died, compared with a death rate of 11pc for the 158 patients who did not receive the drug. The death rate was 22pc for the 113 patients given hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin.
These results have not yet been peer-reviewed and included only male patients. (© Daily Telegraph, London)