PARIS: Scientists and pharmacologists have for weeks been engaged in an international argument about the use of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), but a French-Lebanese doctor in Paris has warned against its uncontrolled use, due to potentially life-threatening cardiovascular toxicities.
The eminent French professor and microbiologist, Didier Raoult, who is based at Aix-Marseille University in the south of France, has promoted the drug’s use to treat COVID-19, and it has also been praised by US President Donald Trump.
Controversy surrounding the drug intensified, however, when The Lancet, a British peer-reviewed medical journal, published a study saying that the drug’s use might pose the risk of abnormal cardio-rhythms or even death.
Raoult described The Lancet study as “messy” but the World Health Organization (WHO) has also cautioned against physicians and medical associations recommending or administering it to patients with COVID-19.
The French Ministry of Health, meanwhile, has banned the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus following publication and analysis of The Lancet study.
That caution has been echoed elsewhere. Arab News contacted Dr. Joe Salem, a French-born cardiologist and pharmacologist of Lebanese origin, who is on the staff of the renowned French public hospital, La Pitie Salpetriere. He, along with a group of scientific researchers, has also found that the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 is ultimately dangerous, and possibly fatal, supporting the findings published in The Lancet.
Dr. Salem explained that he had used a different approach in his research from that of the British scientists, but that he reached the same conclusion. He said that the medication may have a serious impact on the cardiovascular system, and could be rarely fatal, based on a wide analysis of the WHO’s Pharmacovigilance Global Database, which includes more than 21 million adverse event case reports across all medication classes from more than 130 countries between Nov. 14, 1967 and March 1, 2020.
Dr. Salem said that investigations began in February, when hydroxychloroquine was first suggested and used as a treatment for COVID-19. Its use occurred despite knowledge that it had been linked to cardio-arrhythmia since 1967.
The researchers at La Pitie Salpetriere wanted to look closely at the effects that had been observed since 1967, which showed the cardiac complications that the medication could cause. Their study concluded that reports of acute cardiac arrhythmia had been described and that risk of reporting of such events were more linked to the combination of the two drugs, hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin versus hydroxychloroquine monotherapy.