One might also question whether the resources necessary for large studies might be better diverted to other causes, at the same time allowing the drugs themselves to be used for their original objective.
When asked about the Lancet study, White House coronavirus taskforce co-ordinator Dr Deborah Birx said the US Food and Drug Administration had been "very clear" about concerns in using the drug as either a coronavirus prevention or as a treatment course.
The two drugs are approved to help treat illnesses such as malaria and lupus.
In a segment on NPR earlier this week, medical researchers and others explored the politicization of drug treatments as a sad development to emerge during the Covid-19 pandemic, with many placing the blame squarely at the feet of a president who has sidelined experts while injecting his own uninformed and often ridiculous claims into the national conversation. But health officials had warned that it could cause heart problems.
"Urgent confirmation from randomised clinical trials is needed", they wrote.More news: Hailey Bieber Snaps At Rumors That She Had Plastic Surgery
The debate surrounding the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine epitomises companies' balancing act between hope and scientific realities.
For this study, researchers analyzed data of over 96,000 Covid-19 patients from 671 hospitals in six continents.
As per the report, these patients were hospitalized from December 2019 to April 2020 and they had either died or were discharged by April 21, 2020.
Patients receiving the anti-malarials were put in four different groups: chloroquine alone, chloroquine with a macrolide, hydroxychloroquine alone, or hydroxychloroquine with a macrolide. Patients from these four groups were compared with the remaining control group of 81,144 patients.
In comparison, only 1 in 11 hospitalised patients from the control group fell victim to coronavirus during this period.
Both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have shown evidence of being effective against the coronavirus in a lab setting, but studies of the drugs in patients have proven inconclusive at best. The drug and its more toxic predecessor, chloroquine, are also linked to a risky heart condition.More news: DeSantis Lifts All Restrictions On Youth Activities
Some of the difference in the rates of mortality is due to underlying differences between patients who received the treatments and those who didn't. After accounting for factors including age, race, body mass index, and underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes, the researchers found the drug regimens were associated with an increased risk of death. The drug makes them sicker.
"It really does give us some degree of confidence that we are unlikely to see major benefits from these drugs in the treatment of COVID-19 and possibly harm", said Aronoff, who was not involved in the research.
The researchers found that those who took chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine were more likely to develop serious cardiac arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats.
The findings: Those given the drug alone had a 34% increased risk of dying and a 137% increased risk of heart arrhythmias.
Treatment with the medications among patients with Covid-19, either alone or in combination with antibiotics, was linked to an increased risk of serious heart rhythm complications and death. If they show that the drugs were actually harmful, it will be another giant misstep in the response to the virus.More news: Calls for Dominic Cummings to resign after reports he broke lockdown rules