Hydroxychloroquine takes another hit in failed small-scale COVID-19 study

Antimalarial hydroxychloroquine has raked in support as a potential wonder drug to treat COVID-19, with even President Donald Trump touting it as a possible "game changer." But small-scale studies have been less than definitive on the drug's chances—and new data haven't cleared matters up much.

A U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) study (PDF) found that severe COVID-19 patients treated with antimalarial hydroxychloroquine alone or in combination with antibiotic azithromycin showed "no evidence" of reduced risk of death or mechanical ventilation over supportive care, according to data posted Tuesday. 

In a small-scale analysis of 368 COVID-19 patients treated in VA hospitals, researchers found there was no significant difference in ventilation risk for all three cohorts. Meanwhile, patients treated with hydroxychloroquine alone showed a significantly higher risk of all-cause mortality over either supportive care of a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. 

The researchers noted their analysis was not randomized nor controlled and cautioned patience for several ongoing clinical studies to read out before drawing conclusions on hydroxychloroquine's use for COVID-19. 

RELATED: Did chloroquine really fail a COVID-19 study—or was the trial design to blame?