Department of Health and UAlbany study observes no significant benefits of malaria drug in COVID-19 patients


ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The UAlbany School of Public Health and the NYS Department of Health conducted an observational study on hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and COVID-19, and did not observe benefits of the most used drug, hydroxychloroquine, with or without azithromycin.

The study’s findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and sought to answer the following questions:

  • To what degree are physicians prescribing hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, and/or chloroquine for COVID-19 hospitalized patients?
  • To what degree are there adverse effects of these drugs when prescribed?
  • To what extent do these drugs improve patient clinical outcomes?

“This was an observational study as opposed to a randomized, controlled trial,” Dr. David Holtgrave, Dean of the School of Public Health at UAlbany told News10, “so we didn’t randomize people into getting the drug or not getting the drug. We were looking at, in the real world, did physicians use the drugs or not, and, if so, with which patients?” 

As part of the study, medical records were reviewed for a sample of 1438 patients from 25 hospitals in the greater New York City region. All patients had a hospital admission dates between March 15 and March 28, 2020. Analysis of the records indicated that everyone had hoped for a large and immediate beneficial impact of these therapies, but for this group of seriously ill patients, researchers did not observe a significant benefit of the administered drugs.

The study also observed adverse effects of the drug treatment.

“We saw that the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin was associated with an apparent increase in cardiac arrest,” Dr. Holtgrave said, “and that was true even after we did all the statistical adjustments for factors like gender and age.”

A different study from the NYU Grossman School of medicine found, however, that hydroxychloroquine may play a role in therapeutic management for COVID-19, when used in combination with zinc sulfate. The study was posted as a pre-print, meaning it has not yet been peer-reviewed.

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