Background: The global push for the use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and chloroquine (CQ) against COVID-19 has resulted in an ongoing discussion about the effectivity and toxicity of these drugs. Recent studies report no effect of (H)CQ on 28-day mortality. We investigated the effect of HCQ and CQ in hospitalized patients on the non-ICU COVID-ward.
Methods: A nationwide, observational cohort study was performed in The Netherlands. Hospitals were given the opportunity to decide independently on the use of three different COVID-19 treatment strategies: HCQ, CQ, or no treatment. We compared the outcomes between these groups. The primary outcomes were 1) death on the COVID-19 ward, and 2) transfer to the intensive care unit (ICU).
Results: The analysis included 1064 patients from 14 hospitals: 566 patients received treatment with either HCQ (n = 189) or CQ (n = 377), and 498 patients received no treatment. In a multivariate propensity-matched weighted competing regression analysis, there was no significant effect of (H)CQ on mortality on the COVID ward. However, HCQ was associated with a significantly decreased risk of transfer to the ICU (hazard ratio (HR) = 0.47, 95% CI = 0.27-0.82, p = 0.008) when compared with controls. This effect was not found in the CQ group (HR = 0.80, 95% CI = 0.55-1.15, p = 0.207).
Conclusion: The results of this observational study demonstrate a lack of effect of (H)CQ on non-ICU mortality. However, we show that the use of HCQ - but not CQ - is associated with a 53% reduction in risk of transfer of COVID-19 patients from the regular ward to the ICU. Recent prospective studies have reported on 28-day, all-cause mortality only; therefore, additional prospective data on the early effects of HCQ in preventing transfer to the ICU are still needed. (C) 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of International Society for Infectious Diseases.