Expert advice on the use of hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of COVID-19 has been strengthened from “not recommended” to “do not use”.
The National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce now makes a clear recommendation against the use of hydroxychloroquine for people with COVID-19 disease except in a clinical trial setting.
The Taskforce comprising 29 peak health professional bodies whose members are caring for people with COVID-19, says the evidence now shows that hydroxychloroquine is potentially harmful and no more effective than standard care in treating patients with COVID-19.
“As a national Taskforce we have reviewed all the scientific data around hydroxychloroquine and we can now say, definitively, that hydroxychloroquine should not be used as a treatment for anyone with COVID-19,” said Taskforce Executive Director, Associate Professor Julian Elliott.
“There is now sufficient data for us to make a very clear and strong recommendation. In this instance, that is based on data from randomised controlled trials that enrolled nearly 6000 patients. This is a substantial amount of very high-quality scientific data upon which we’ve based the recommendation.
“The pooled results show the drug does not reduce mortality, or shorten the amount of time a sick person spends in hospital. It also exposes them to side effects including cardiac toxicity.”
For prophylaxis, the Taskforce says it is awaiting results from studies before making any recommendation.
“There are ongoing prevention trials investigating the use of hydroxychloroquine to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, and the Taskforce will continue to review these data as soon as they become available,” it said.
Associate Professor Elliott said it was important to remember that there are effective treatments recommended for treatment of people with COVID-19.
“Just last week, the Taskforce strengthened its recommendation for the use of dexamethasone – an inexpensive, widely available steroid that has been shown to reduce the risk of death by 14% in patients requiring oxygen and 29% in ventilated patients,” he said.
“We also know that antiviral drug remdesivir has been shown to reduce the time to recovery for moderate or severe cases of COVID-19.”
The National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce was formed to provide a clear and consistent voice of cross-disciplinary consensus on the clinical care of people with COVID-19. The Taskforce delivers ‘living’ guidelines that are updated weekly by seven expert panels, an expert advisory group and two working groups comprising Australia’s leading researchers and clinicians.