SALT LAKE CITY — A joint study by Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health concludes the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine provides no benefit in treating COVID-19 patients.
The study, published in The Annals of the American Thoracic Society, found the drug provided no benefit when compared to azithromycin, an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections.
“We saw enormous early interest in hydroxychloroquine, but now we can definitively say that it doesn’t help COVID-19 patients,” said Dr. Samuel M. Brown of Intermountain's Center for Humanizing Critical Care in a statement on Wednesday after the study was published,.
A similar study published by the National Institutes of Health also found hydroxychloroquine was ineffective at treating COVID-19 patients.
Intermountain Healthcare and University of Utah Health tested 85 patients over an 11-week span. Researchers found that outcomes for COVID-19 patients may have been worse in those given hydroxychloroquine than those treated with azithromycin, Intermountain said in a statement.
The study had a goal of testing 300 patients, but was shut down early when it became clear there was no benefit.
"When we interpreted our findings in the context of the national trial, we felt like our study had done what it needed to do. It had protected our patients from plan to distribute hydroxychloroquine without informed consent or careful safety protocols. And it contributed to our knowledge about what works and what doesn’t," Dr. Brown said in the statement.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Utah political leaders went big on hydroxychloroquine and touted it as a potential effective treatment, echoing comments made by President Trump. The state went so far as to purchase a large stockpile of it (which it later got a refund on). Lawmakers passed budget bills over the summer to purchase even more before abandoning the idea.