Henry Ford Health System still moving forward with hydroxychloroquine study

Jun 16, 2020 at 10:29 am
click to enlarge Henry Ford Health System still moving forward with hydroxychloroquine study

President Donald Trump had been hyping the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential coronavirus treatment, which led to Detroit heading up the first large-scale study of the drug as a potential preventive measure against COVID-19 at Henry Ford Health System. However, in recent weeks the drug has seen a string of bad publicity: Trump revealed he had secretly been taking it, shocking medical professionals due to the drug's potential adverse effects for people with heart conditions, and then within a week announced he was no longer taking it. Then, on Monday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration withdrew its emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients.

Henry Ford Health System, however, says the FDA's new reversal does not impact its study, which is expected to wrap up in July.

The FDA's decision bars the use of hydroxychloroquine sulfate and a similar drug called chloroquine phosphate from the Strategic National Stockpile for hospitalized COVID-19 patients. But the use of the drug as a prophylaxis, or preventive measure, is not impacted by the FDA decision.

"The ongoing WHIP COVID-19 study is an FDA-approved study looking at hydroxychloroquine as a potential preventative medication for healthy, pre-screened individuals," Dr. Steven Kalkanis, chief executive officer of the Henry Ford Medical Group, told Metro Times in a statement on Monday. "It is not affected by the FDA’s decision today, and there is no evidence that the use of hydroxychloroquine as a potential prophylaxis presents a health risk in that setting."

Kalkanis says hydroxychloroquine has been used as a treatment in hospitalized patients, which falls under the FDA's Monday directive. The early results of a retrospective study looking at the drug as a treatment look promising, but the results are not final and still pending peer review.

"We have analyzed our data and have seen a significantly improved outcome in a group of COVID-19 patients who received hydroxychloroquine," he said.

In response to the FDA decision, Henry Ford Health System suspended the use of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment outside of clinical trials.

"The safety and wellbeing of our patients remains our top priority and we will continue to monitor all available data regarding safety and outcomes and adjust accordingly," Kalkanis said.

Another study at University of Michigan is also still moving forward.

On Tuesday, officials announced potential in another drug. Scientists at the University of Oxford said a steroid called dexamethasone was found to reduce the number of deaths in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

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