Chloroquine Clinical Trial Halted Due To High Rates Of Deadly Heart Complications

As the medical community continues to search for an effective treatment for coronavirus, researchers were forced to shut down a clinical trial that was evaluating the safety of chloroquine, after too many patients developed irregular heart rates that increased the risk of potentially fatal heart arrhythmia.

A chloroquine research trial of coronavirus patients was being conducted in Brazil, but has been permanently suspended after patients receiving high doses of chloroquine developed potentially life threatening irregular heartbeats.

The study involved 81 hospitalized patients in the city of Manaus, Brazil, who had confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. Approximately half of the participants were given a dose of 450 milligrams of chloroquine twice daily for five days, while the rest were prescribed a higher dose of 600 milligrams for 10 days.

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According to researchers, within the first three days, patients taking the higher doses of chloroquine began experiencing heart arrhythmias. By the sixth day of the study, 11 patients given the 600 milligram doses had died, causing researchers to quickly abandon the study to prevent further harm to participants.

Due to the abrupt halt of the study, researchers were unable to conclude whether patients taking lower doses of chloroquine experienced any benefits from taking the drug.

Chloroquinephosphate and hydroxychloroquine are chemicals used in home aquariums and commercially available for purchase at stores and on the internet. There are unconfirmed media reports that the aquarium chemicals may be out of stock due to potential increased demand by the public because of statements made by government officials. However, there are currently no pharmaceutical products approved by the FDA to treat or prevent COVID-19.

Amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, poison control experts released a warning late last month asking consumers not to self-medicate with chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine drugs that have not been prescribed by a doctor, due to the risk of severe and life threatening side effects.

Chloroquine phosphate has been used in the past to treat against malaria, however, when used without a prescription and not under the supervision of a doctor may result in serious and potentially life-threatening side effects, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns.

When used inappropriately or overdosed, the medication can lead to severe toxicity, including cardiac rhythm disturbances, such as prolonged QT, severe hypokalemia, cardiovascular collapse, seizures, coma, and death.

Recently, experts have suggested chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine may be an effective addition for the treatment of COVID-19 in some patients, based on past outbreak treatments used to fight off the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). However, they are still considered experimental and are only being prescribed under close supervision of a physician in a trial basis.

Some reports indicate chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are currently being given to some confirmed positive, hospitalized COVID-19 patients that have mildly severe symptoms with severe lung complications, or moderate to severe symptoms of the disease. However, these patients have been medically evaluated to make sure they have no pre-existing medical conditions which would exclude them from taking the drugs.

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