Healthcare

NIH recommends against combining hydroxychloroquine with Z-Pak to treat COVID-19

A panel of doctors and experts convened by the National Institutes of Health advised against combining two drugs that have been floated as possible cures for COVID-19, warning of potentially harmful effects. 

The COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel advised against combining hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, and azithromycin, an antibiotic also known as 'Z-Pak,' outside of clinical trials. 

The panel said there is not enough clinical data to recommend either for or against the use of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19. 

If hydroxychloroquine is used, clinicians should monitor patients for adverse effects, the panel said, especially heart problems. 

Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin has been promoted as a potential treatment for COVID-19 by President Trump, leading to shortages of both drugs. 

The drugs, "taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game-changers in the history of medicine," Trump tweeted last month. 

A small analysis of COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Veterans Health Administration medical centers found that those who took hydroxychloroquine were more likely to die or need mechanical ventilation. 

The study, which has not been peer-reviewed, analyzed only 368 patients but represented the largest look at the outcomes of COVID-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine - with or without azithromycin, a common antibiotic - anywhere in the world.

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