Hydroxychloroquine ‘seems to be safe’ for COVID-19 patients, report researchers focused on arrhythmic safety

Hydroxychloroquine is not associated with an abnormal amount of arrhythmic events among COVID-19 patients, according to a brand new analysis out of Europe.

The study, published in EP Europace, includes data from 649 COVID-19 patients treated with the drug. All patients were enrolled from March 10 to April 10, 2020, and the most common symptoms were fever, dry cough and dyspnea. Patients were treated in a variety of clinical settings, including ICUs, medical wards and even at home. While 53.8% of patients were given hydroxychloroquine alone, 30% of patients received two QT-prolonging drugs in total. Another 13.6% of patients received three QT-prolonging drugs.

Overall, the authors said hydroxychloroquine was only associated with “modest QTc prolongation.” The overall major ventricular arrhythmia rate was just 1.1%. From their perspective—they were specifically focused on its arrhythmic safety—the medication “seems to be safe, regardless of the clinical setting in which it is started” as long as an adequate ECG monitoring strategy is in place.

The team emphasized that it was not ruling on the overall “clinical efficacy” of hydroxychloroquine with this research.

“In order to draw definitive conclusions regarding the impact of hydroxychloroquine on COVID-19 patients, results from one of the several ongoing trials are needed,” wrote lead author Alessio Gasperetti, MD, of the Heart Rhythm Center in Milan, Italy, and colleagues. “On the other hand, this study aims to present the available data regarding the hydroxychloroquine arrhythmic safety profile in COVID-19 patients, to provide physicians with real-world evidence coming from three different clinical settings, upon which to build a more evidence-based decision-making process.”

Of all the potential COVID-19 treatments discussed throughout the last several months, none have grabbed more mainstream attention than hydroxychloroquine. The teams behind most recent studies—including one that was just published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology—have warned clinicians to use caution when considering the use of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment.

Click here to read the full EP Europace study.