Hydroxychloroquine shows no benefit, raises death risk: Study

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A pharmacy tech pours out pills of Hydroxychloroquine at Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, on May 20, 2020. US President Donald Trump announced May 18 he has been taking hydroxychloroquine for almost two weeks as a preventative measure against COVID-19. )AFP)
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A health worker disinfects her protective suit at a hospital. (AFP)
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Updated 23 May 2020

Hydroxychloroquine shows no benefit, raises death risk: Study

  • Britain has ordered £35 million ($42 million) worth of hydroxychloroquine, despite numerous studies showing it is ineffective in treating COVID-19 and may even be more dangerous than doing nothing

PARIS: A study of nearly 100,000 coronavirus patients has shown no benefit in treating them with anti-viral drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine and even increased the likelihood of them dying in hospital.
Hydroxychloroquine is normally used to treat arthritis but pronouncement from public figures including US President Donald Trump —  who announced this week he is taking the drug — has prompted governments to bulk buy the medicine.
Chloroquine is an anti-malarial. Both drugs can produce potentially serious side effects, particularly heart arrhythmia.
And neither drug benefitted patients hospitalized with COVID-19, according to a study published on Friday in The Lancet.
Looking at the records of 96,000 patients across hundreds of hospitals, they found that administering the drugs actually increased the risk of dying.
They compared outcomes from four groups: Those treated with hydroxychloroquine alone, with chloroquine alone, and then two groups given the respective drugs in combination with antibiotics.
There was also a control group of patients not given these treatments.
At the end of the study period around nine percent of those in the control group had died.
Of those treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine alone, 18 percent and 16.4 percent respectively had died.
And those given each drug in combination with antibiotics were even more likely to die: 22.8 percent with chloroquine and 23.8 percent with hydroxychloroquine.
The authors estimated that the drugs put patients at up to 45 percent higher risk of dying from COVID-19 compared with underlying health issues.
“Treatment with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine does not benefit patients with COVID-19,” said Mandeep Mehra, lead author of the study and executive director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Center for Advanced Heart Disease in Boston.
“Instead, our findings suggest it may be associated with an increased risk of serious heart problems and increased risk of death.”
Despite Trump’s enthusiasm for using hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 treatment, his own government’s Food and Drug Administration warns against it.
Brazil’s health minister on Wednesday recommended using chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat even mild COVID-19 cases.
Britain has ordered £35 million ($42 million) worth of hydroxychloroquine, despite numerous studies showing it is ineffective in treating COVID-19 and may even be more dangerous than doing nothing.
“Several countries have advocated use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, either alone or in combination, as potential treatments for COVID-19,” said Frank Ruschitzka, director of the Heart Center at University Hospital Zurich and co-author of the study.
“We now know from our study that the chance that these medications improve outcomes in COVID-19 is quite low.”
Stephen Griffin, associate professor at the University of Leeds’ School of Medicine said the Lancet research was “potentially a landmark study for COVID-19 therapy.”
“The indications are that these drugs certainly ought not to be used outside of a trial setting where patients can be monitored for complications,” said Griffin, who was not involved in the study.
“It is clear that high profile endorsements of taking these drugs without clinical oversight is both misguided and irresponsible.”


India faces worst locust crisis in decades

Updated 05 June 2020

India faces worst locust crisis in decades

  • Indo-Pak border a breeding ground for bug; worst attack in over 20 years, says expert

NEW DELHI: Suresh Kumar was sipping tea on the balcony of his Jaipur house on Friday when the sun suddenly disappeared. Thinking it was probably a black cloud that was filtering out the daylight, he looked up and saw swarms of locusts covering the sky of the capital city of the western Indian state of Rajasthan.

Within a few minutes, short-horned grasshoppers were everywhere —walls, balconies and nearby trees — as they forced people to take refuge in their houses.

“It was unprecedented,” Kumar, who lives in Jaipur’s walled city area, told Arab News on Thursday. “Never before have I witnessed such a scene. Suddenly millions of aliens invaded our locality. Some residents of the neighborhood tried to bang some steel plates to shoo them off, but the jarring sound did not make much of an impact. However, the swarms left the area within an hour or so.”

More than a thousand kilometers away, in the Balaghat district of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, farmer Dev Singh had a similar experience, although the bugs not only occupied his farmhouse, they destroyed the budding leaves of different kinds of pulses which he had sown in his field.

“Only a few weeks ago I harvested the wheat crop,” he told Arab News. “In a way, I’m lucky that the locusts have come now … otherwise the damage would have been much greater,” but he added that “with the pulse plant damaged in good measure, the yield will not be great this year.”

His area has been cleared of the locusts after the intervention of local authorities, which sprayed chemicals to kill the bugs and blared out sirens to shoo them off.

India is already grappling with an alarming surge of coronavirus cases and struggling to cope with the devastation caused by a recent cyclone. The country is also dealing with rising unemployment figures after more than 100 million people went jobless due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is facing security issues, too, in the form of a seething border dispute with China. The locust invasion has added to beleaguered India’s laundry list of woes.

Scientists said it was a serious crisis.

“This is the worst locust attack in more than two decades,” Dr. K. L. Gurjar, of the Faridabad-based Locust Warning Organization, told Arab News. “Compared to the past, these locusts are younger and have traveled a longer distance. This should be a cause of concern. The states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh will be badly impacted. We are controlling and containing the situation on a daily basis.”

According to media reports, around 50,000 hectares of farmland have been destroyed by desert locusts in the two states during the last four weeks.

“The problem will persist until the invasion of swarms continues from across the border in Pakistan and Iran. The Indo-Pak border has become the breeding ground for the bug,” Gurjar added.

But he remained hopeful that the country would get rid of the menace through its measures, despite the present danger.

“There is a danger of locusts remaining alive for a longer period, though we are hopeful to ultimately sort them out.”

The Jawaharlal Nehru Agriculture University (JNAU) of Jabalpur has also been monitoring the situation in Madhya Pradesh, noting that locusts damage the crop completely wherever they go.

“Desert locusts stay immobile throughout the night and their movement begins again in the morning and they fly along the direction of the wind,” JNAU’s Dr. Om Gupta told Arab News. “Wherever they find shelter, they damage the crops in totality. In some areas, locusts have created havoc.”

She added that spray was generally used in the evening or early morning to kill the bugs. “They breed very fast and we focus on killing their eggs. What we are dealing with is nothing short of a catastrophe, and we are not going to get respite from this anytime soon.”