Australian COVID taskforce rejects Hydroxychloroquine

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    Thumbs down for hydroxychloroquine from government virus taskforce

    Hydroxychloroquine should not be used to treat or prevent coronavirus, the government’s official COVID-19 evidence taskforce has recommended.

    The strong recommendations, made on the basis of multiple studies of thousands of people, should largely bring to an end the strange, twisting saga of a little-known rheumatoid arthritis drug that shot to fame as a supposed miracle cure for COVID-19.

    US President Donald Trump called hydroxychloroquine a "game changer" in March and said he had been taking it.

    In April, mining magnate Clive Palmer donated nearly 33 million doses of the drug to help fight the virus in Australia, calling it the "best hope" for patients with COVID-19.

    But since then, the tide of scientific opinion has turned against the drug. Most major Australian hydroxychloroquine trials have now shut down.

    One trial continues to run – with the scientist in charge insisting there remains no evidence to show the drug does not work for prevention.

    Associate Professor Julian Elliott, executive director of the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce, said his team was “essentially making the strongest recommendation we can to not use hydroxychloroquine".

    “It’s an evidence-based recommendation. We have high certainty that hydroxychloroquine is not effective for the treatment of COVID-19 and there is strong evidence it has significant harms.”

    The taskforce, which is funded by the federal government, reviews published and unpublished data from studies and trials around the world every day, using a careful method set up by the Cochrane medical policy organisation. It then issues clinical recommendations.

    Cochrane reviews, which try to identify any scientific errors or biases, are generally considered gold-standard medical evidence.

    Professor Elliott’s team combined the results of six trials of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19, featuring 5866 participants.

    The pooled results show the drug does not cut mortality, or shorten the amount of time a person with coronavirus spends in hospital. It also exposes them to side effects including heart damage.

    “The numbers now stack up in a way that gives us a high degree of confidence,” Professor Elliot said.
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