Background: The global push for the use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and chloroquine (CQ) against COVID-19 has resulted in an ongoing discussion about the effectivity and toxicity of these drugs. Recent studies report no effect of (H)CQ on 28-day mortality. We investigated the effect of HCQ and CQ in hospitalized patients on the non-ICU COVID-ward. Methods: A nationwide, observational cohort study was performed in The Netherlands. Hospitals were given the opportunity to decide independently on the use of three different COVID-19 treatment strategies: HCQ, CQ, or no treatment. We compared the outcomes between these groups. The primary outcomes were 1) death on the COVID-19 ward, and 2) transfer to the intensive care unit (ICU). Results: The analysis included 1064 patients from 14 hospitals: 566 patients received treatment with either HCQ (n = 189) or CQ (n = 377), and 498 patients received no treatment. In a multivariate propensitymatched weighted competing regression analysis, there was no significant effect of (H)CQ on mortality on the COVID ward. However, HCQ was associated with a significantly decreased risk of transfer to the ICU (hazard ratio (HR) = 0.47, 95% CI = 0.27–0.82, p = 0.008) when compared with controls. This effect was not found in the CQ group (HR = 0.80, 95% CI = 0.55–1.15, p = 0.207). Conclusion: The results of this observational study demonstrate a lack of effect of (H)CQ on non-ICU mortality. However, we show that the use of HCQ — but not CQ — is associated with a 53% reduction in risk of transfer of COVID-19 patients from the regular ward to the ICU. Recent prospective studies have reported on 28-day, all-cause mortality only; therefore, additional prospective data on the early effects of HCQ in preventing transfer to the ICU are still needed.

COVID-19, Hydroxychloroquine, Chloroquine, Azithromycin, Clinical course,
International Journal of Infectious Diseases
Department of Epidemiology

Lammers, A.J.J., Brohet, R.M, Theunissen, R.E.P., Koster, C., Rood, R., Verhagen, D.W.M., … Groeneveld, P.H. (2020). Early hydroxychloroquine but not chloroquine use reduces ICU admission in COVID-19 patients. International Journal of Infectious Diseases, 101, 283–289. doi:10.1016/j.ijid.2020.09.1460