Michigan study: Hydroxychloroquine saved lives among coronavirus patients

 A Henry Ford Health System study found hydroxychloroquine reduced mortality rates among COVID-19 patients this spring. (Shutterstock image)

Early treatment with hydroxychloroquine cut the death rate significantly in certain sick patients hospitalized with COVID-19 — and without heart-related side-effects, according to a new study published by Henry Ford Health System. 

The study, published Thursday in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, is another curve in the continued research — and its sometimes conflicting results — into whether the drug that seemed promising at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic really works.


The Henry Ford study examined outcomes of 2,541 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 between March 10 and May 2 across the Michigan system’s six hospitals. Overall, 18 percent of the patients died in the hospital.

But there were marked differences in their treatment.

Among those who received hydroxychloroquine as part of early treatment, 13 percent died, compared to 26 percent of those who did not receive the drug. 

Mortality among all patients was highest among those who were older than 65, white, and were admitted with already-reduced oxygen levels. They also commonly had serious underlying diseases, including chronic kidney and lung disease.

Dr. Marcus Zervos, head of infectious disease at Henry Ford Health System, acknowledged that Henry Ford’s results differ from other studies.

“There’s variability in the literature on outcomes with hydroxychloroquine... What we think was important in our study was our patients were treated early. And for hydroxychloroquine to have a benefit, it needs to be given before the patient suffers some of the severe immune reaction that can occur with COVID.”

That’s because the drug works by inhibiting the immune system’s inflammatory response to the virus, Zervos said. 

Stories from the front  

Bridge Magazine, Detroit Free Press and Michigan Radio are teaming up to report on Michigan hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. We will be sharing accounts of the challenges doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel face as they work to treat patients and save lives. If you work in a Michigan hospital, we would love to hear from you. You can contact reporters Robin Erb rerb@bridgemi.com at Bridge, Kristen Jordan Shamus kshamus@freepress.com at the Free Press and Kate Wells katwells@umich.edu at Michigan Radio.

Patients were monitored for possible heart issues, he added, and anyone who was at risk for cardiac abnormalities was excluded from the study.  

While it is critical to use hydroxychloroquine in combination with other treatments, such as steroids, Zervos said these findings suggest the drug could be helpful in treating COVID, especially in other countries that don’t have access to the antiviral drug, Remdesiver, which may reduce illness in some COVID-19 patients.

“Many of these countries, they could be low-income settings. They don’t have access to Remdesivir. Remdesivir is going to be expensive. Hydroxychloroquine is inexpensive. So I think the drug does have a role,” Zerovos said. 

Hydroxychloroquine, sold as a generic or under the brand name Plaquenil,  is used to prevent or treat mosquito-carried malaria, as well as certain auto-immune diseases such as lupus and arthritis.

In the earliest days of the pandemic, doctors reported that some patients appeared to recover more quickly with hydroxychloroquine. The drug’s profile skyrocketed in March after Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted a reference, and President Trump lauded its potential as a game-changing medication and urged patients to give it a shot. 

But scientists quickly urged caution as doctors began to report potentially deadly changes to the heart’s rhythm. In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned against use of the drug outside a closely-monitored hospital setting or clinical trial. Then last month, the FDA withdrew hydroxychloroquine sulfate and the related chloroquine phosphate from the Strategic National Stockpile for use among hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Confusing matters more, two high-profile studies — including one that suggested hydroxychloroquine was unsafe — were retracted from the respected journals, The New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet, after researchers questioned irregularities in the data.

A study to determine whether hydroxychloroquine may prevent COVID-19 infection is also underway at Henry Ford. The randomized, double-blinded WHIP study will examine 3,000 first responders and health care workers. There are 619 people currently enrolled.

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Thu, 07/02/2020 - 4:54pm

The fda prohibited doctors use HCQ for their patients at early June. FDA is responsible for those patients died unnecessarily been not able to be saved by HCQ.

Tue, 07/07/2020 - 12:29pm

Right Tony.

Kevin Grand
Thu, 07/02/2020 - 5:35pm

Spike this story, and spike it quickly!

You cannot print anything that ratchets down the fear level.

What will the politicians use to control everyone if they cannot be kept afraid?

Tue, 07/07/2020 - 12:31pm

Exactly Kevin

middle of the mit
Thu, 07/02/2020 - 11:35pm

[[[[While it is critical to use hydroxychloroquine in combination with other treatments, such as steroids, Zervos said these findings suggest the drug could be helpful in treating COVID, especially in other countries that don’t have access to the antiviral drug, Remdesiver, which may reduce illness in some COVID-19 patients.

“Many of these countries, they could be low-income settings. They don’t have access to Remdesivir. Remdesivir is going to be expensive. Hydroxychloroquine is inexpensive. So I think the drug does have a role,” Zerovos said. ]]]]








Things that make you go hmmmm.

C+C Music Factory - Things That Make You Go Hmmmm.... (Video Version) ft. Freedom Williams

Who owns stock in Hydroxycloroquine?






Patricia Sperti
Fri, 07/03/2020 - 12:29am

I have yet to read or hear of the danger this drug poses to one’s vision . The damage is potentially severe and irreversible .

Fri, 07/03/2020 - 8:19pm

Danger to one's vision vs. death? I'll take my chances with taking the drug.

Sun, 07/05/2020 - 11:00am

So Vancomycin, a life saving antibiotic for resistant infections damages the kidneys and your hearing but thousands of people use it so they won’t die. Point being I’d rather deal with the side effects than die.

Fri, 07/03/2020 - 11:32am

These results can’t be trusted as 10% of the subjects who remained hospitalized were simply excluded from the results. Skewed. Researchers doing so show raise concern.

Sun, 07/05/2020 - 2:43am

Retrospective, not blinded, not randomized, observational studies should not be used to make clinical decisions. So many confounding variables. They did a good job watching qt intervals. The study on using HQ for prophylaxis will hopefully be useful.

Meanwhile, our numbers have crept up and out positivity rate has inched up.

Suggestion: sniff your toothpaste every morning. If you can’t smell it one of these mornings, ISOLATE and go get TESTED. If you can’t smell toothpaste, use vanilla or peanut butter or a spice you like. Loss of smell is an early symptom. You might not notice it so consciously test it everyday. If you get a fever, cough, diarrhea, rash, or faint and can still smell, go get tested. Something like 20% of people with COVID-19 retain the ability to smell.

Sun, 07/05/2020 - 7:40am

Follow the money, as shameful as that sounds.

William C. Plumpe
Sun, 07/05/2020 - 9:56am

One study doesn't prove anything.
Repeated similar studies with the same
results prove the drug's efficacy under specific circumstances not use by the general public.
One study a cure does not make.

Paul Jordan
Mon, 07/06/2020 - 9:13am

I note that the study reports that it compares various combinations of hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic--but articles about the stay also refer to the hydroxychloroquine regimen including unnamed steriods. Remdisavir, which has been found to be helpful with COVID-19, is a steriod.
Is it possible that any observed beneficial effects were due to the steroids, not the hydroxychloroquine? There needs to be more analysis before anyone should imply that it can be helpful.

Mon, 07/06/2020 - 4:35pm

Yet many democrats chose to lie just out of spite for the POTUS. Shameful.

Mon, 07/06/2020 - 8:52pm

The headline is misleading and you're quoting an extremely flawed study. The drug was only given to folks more likely to survive anyway. The "study" means nothing.

Faith D
Mon, 07/06/2020 - 9:25pm

This study was flawed from the get go. They only gave it to people who were more likely to survive anyway. The data is meaningless.

Tue, 07/07/2020 - 12:41pm

I think there’s a lot more data coming in all the time suggesting the drug is effective. CNN just reported this a few days ago. If you trust CNN, that is.

Tue, 07/07/2020 - 12:08pm

Before anyone jumps on the hydroxychloroquine bandwagon and proclaims it to be a cure-all for COVID-19, flaws in the study methodology should be noted. Looking at the raw numbers highlights one of the flaws: hydroxychloroquine + azithromycin, 157/783 (20.1% [95% CI: 17.3%-23.0%]), hydroxychloroquine alone, 162/1202 (13.5% [95% CI: 11.6%-15.5%]), azithromycin alone, 33/147 (22.4% [95% CI: 16.0%-30.1%]), and neither drug, 108/409 (26.4% [95% CI: 22.2%-31.0%])​. Primary cause of mortality was respiratory failure (88%) It should be noted that 1202 patients were given hydroxychloroquine alone. That is a larger sample size than for any of the other three treatment protocols, which could possibly mitigate some of the comorbidity variables. The larger the sample size, the less effect comorbidities would have on results. Secondly the median age of the patients receiving each particular treatment is not listed, so there is no way to tell if the median age was an uncontrolled variable or if it didn't factor in the results. Lastly, the researchers themselves note that further trials are needed to examine this impact.
I believe a second observational study would be useful; a study where equal patient populations were measured and the median age of the patients receiving a particular treatment protocol was similar enough to eliminate that as a variable.

Tue, 07/07/2020 - 3:05pm

CC— it was not claimed to be a cure all. Now, I would guess from the level of knowledge you are writing with that you know your stuff. I also bet you that you know others out there who know their stuff too. And I will also bet you again that when the dust settles, when that second observational study is made—what trump said a couple months ago and what reports just coming out now are saying, is correct. It becomes so difficult to keep politics out of our judgements, however. We must learn to speak rationally, and not just emotionally. Not that you were.