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Study at VHA Hospitals Finds Malaria Drug Potentially Harmful in Treating COVID-19

Legally reviewed by Brendan Garcia , Owner and Lead Attorney

As the Coronavirus continues to affect more people across the country, some medical researchers have been focusing their efforts on developing a treatment for COVID-19. In late April, research paid for by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the University of Virginia disclosed the results of a recent COVID-19 treatment in VA hospitals. The research analysis revealed that the Malaria drug hydroxychloroquine (HC) did not increase COVID-19 recovery and may even increase rates of death.

Details of the COVID-19 Study

Researchers examined past COVID-19 treatment methods used in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical centers across the country. Patients in the study were categorized based on the type of treatment they received for COVID-19. This includes standard COVID-19 treatment, prescribed HC, and HC in combination with the antibiotic drug azithromycin (AZ). In total, 368 patients were measured based on their need for ventilator machines and rates of death.

From the data, researchers concluded that HC alone and in combination with AZ may increase rates of death but reduce the need for ventilators. Specifically, the rate of death doubled for patients who took HC alone to treat COVID-19. Similarly, the need for ventilators only slightly decreased for patients who used this treatment method. The group that took HC and AZ together exhibited a 10 percent increased rate of death. However, the need for ventilator machines decreased by half when using a combination of both drugs.

Limitations of the VHA Study

Researchers in the VHA hydroxychloroquine study make note of several limitations that may have affected their findings. Specifically, the study was not randomized or conducted in a controlled setting. Additionally, women, young adults, and other demographics were underrepresented in the data examined. As a result, more clinical trials may need to be conducted before health officials draw definitive conclusions about the ability of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.

The Future of COVID-19 Treatment

In addition to the study at VHA medical centers, HC and AZ studies have been conducted by other organizations. A small study conducted by French researchers found that HC and AZ together may shorten the time that COVID-19 affects an individual. Likewise, drugs similar to HC are being tested to see if they can effectively treat COVID-19. We will continue to monitor the situation and update our site with any significant updates that may impact veterans. If you have any concerns about this situation, contact VetLaw today and speak to an experienced VA-accredited attorney.