Experts warn against Hydroxychloroquine

By June Shannon Coronavirus News   |   21st May 2020

Hydroxychloroquine is unproven in the fight against Covid-19 and is particularly dangerous for heart patients

The Health Products Regulatory Agency (HPRA), the body responsible for regulation of medicines in Ireland, has issued a warning about the use of the drug hydroxychloroquine in the management of Covid-19, particularly in certain groups of patients with underlying heart conditions.

Hydroxychloroquine hit the headlines recently when the President of the US Donald Trump stated that he was taking it to prevent against Covid-19 despite the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US warning about potential serious side effects of the drug.

In a statement Sanofi Ireland and the HPRA said that hydroxychloroquine was licensed for use in Ireland for a number of conditions including rheumatoid and juvenile arthritis, lupus and some skin conditions where it can reduce inflammation, its is also used as an antimalarial drug. However, the statement added that there was not enough evidence that hydroxychloroquine was either effective or safe in the management of COVID-19 whether used alone or in combination with other drugs.

Like many medications hydroxychloroquine can cause a number of side effects, it is particularly dangerous in patients with the heart rhythm disorder Long QT Syndrome (LQTS).

"We are concerned that people may consider taking this drug because of the statements made by Donald Trump so its important that the potential risks of this medication are highlighted."

Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director , The Irish Heart Foundation

The statement warned that hydroxychloroquine was particularly dangerous for people with certain heart conditions as it is known to cause QT prolongation and increase the risk of life threatening arrhythmias in patients with specific risk factors.

Sanofi also stated that it had noticed a recent increase in the number of reports of very serious events occuring including syncope, cardiac arrest and sudden death, associated with the use of hydroxychloroquine and particularly in combination with other drugs known to prolong the QT interval such as azithromycin.

According to the statement, while Hydroxychloroquine is being used worldwide in clinical trials in the management of patients with COVID-19, it is not licenced for use in this way anywhere in the world at this point in time.

The statement advises healthcare professionals to be cautious when using the drug for the management of COVID-19 particularly in patients who are at increased risk for QT prolongation. The use of hydroxychloroquine in the management of covid-19 is currently restricted to hospital use only.

Commenting Dr Angie Brown, Medical Director of The Irish Heart Foundation said, “we are concerned that people may consider taking this drug because of the statements made by Donald Trump so its important that the potential risks of this medication (and indeed any other unlicensed, inappropriate use of un-prescribed medication) are highlighted. This drug should only be taken by prescription for its recognised uses or in hospital as part of a clinical trial where the ECG and heart rhythm can be monitored.”

We are here for you

The Irish Heart Foundation’s nurse support line is available five days a week. Anyone living with heart disease and stroke who has concerns or questions about the coronavirus can contact the nurse support line on 01 668 5001 or support@irishheart.ie.

The Irish Heart Foundation’s new heart support group is on Facebook. Anyone who lives with heart failure or another heart condition or has a family member living with a heart condition can join here: www.facebook.com/groups/heartsupportnetwork/

The Irish Heart Foundation runs 21 stroke support groups and 5 heart failure groups around the country. All these groups have moved to telephone and online support. For more information, see https://irishheart.ie/get-support/.

The Irish Heart Foundation in conjunction with the HSE National Stroke Programme, has launched a new telephone support service for stroke patients who have recently been discharged from hospital. For more information, see here.

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coronavirus Covid-19 heart conditions hydroxychloroquine Long QT Long QT Syndrome medications

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