Drug touted by US president has no benefit, warn experts

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A panel of experts called by US government’s top agency on infectious diseases on Tuesday recommended against the use of a combination of an antimalarial drug and an antibiotic that US President Donald Trump has been touting as a potential “game-changer” in the hunt for a treatment for Covid-19.

The experts’ panel said in guidelines for treatment that except for the purposes of clinical trials, it “recommends against” the use of the antimalarial drug Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) plus Azithromycin, an antibiotic, “because of the potential for toxicities”.

But the US body left open the use of HCQ or another version of it, chloroquine, saying there is insufficient data to recommend for or against their use. The panel warned clinicians that if they did administer HCQ or chloroquine, they should “monitor the patient for adverse effect”.

Also, an analysis published on Tuesday on the use of HCQ to treat coronavirus patients in US Veteran Affairs hospitals showed no benefits and caused more deaths. Researchers and experts have said the study was not rigorous enough and more data is required.

The panel of experts that issued the guidelines was convened by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a federal agency headed by Anthony Fauci, a member of Trump’s White House task force on the outbreak.

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