A hospital in France has had to stop an experimental treatment using hydroxychloroquine on at least one coronavirus patient after it became a “major risk” to their cardiac health.
The University Hospital Center of Nice (CHU de Nice) is one of many hospitals trialing hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 patients. It announced it had been selected for the trial on March 22. A statement from the hospital said it was testing four experimental treatments, one of which included hydroxychloroquine. It hoped to establish its effectiveness and side effects of this and the other treatments being tested.
In an interview with the French daily newspaper Nice-Matin, Professor Émile Ferrari, the head of the cardiology department at the Pasteur hospital in Nice, said the side effects had already been identified, with some patients having to stop treatment because of the risk posed.
The drug was stopped probably due to an abnormality on a heart tracing —EKG, or picture of electrical activity in the heart—called QT prolongation that developed during treatment with hydroxychloroquine. Prolonged QT interval is thought to be a risk factor for life-threatening heart rhythm disturbances like ventricular fibrillation and torsade de pointe.
The original French study of hydroxychloroquine treatment for COVID-19 included a few folks that also got azithromycin, an antibiotic that also tends to prolong the QT interval.
When I first read the Newsweek headline, I thought they halted the entire clinical trial. Not so.
Steve Parker, M.D.