Chloroquine study halted after patients develop heart complications

A small study in Brazil testing the effectiveness of chloroquine in treating COVID-19 patients ended after patients taking a higher dose of the drug developed irregular heart rates, The New York Times reported. 

The study involved 81 patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 infections and tested chloroquine, one of the two drugs President Donald Trump has suggested as potential treatments in the fight against the coronavirus. 

The patients were also given azithromycin, an antibiotic often sold under the brand-name Z-Pak, a combination often used to treat severely ill COVID-19 patients in the U.S. 

By the third day of the study, some patients taking a higher dose started developing heart arrhythmias, according to the Times. By the sixth day, 11 patients had died, and the researchers immediately ended the higher-dosage segment of the study. 

Infectious disease and drug safety experts told the Times the study provided evidence that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine can pose significant harm to some patients, specifically the risk of a fatal heart arrhythmia. 

Researchers said the study didn't have enough patients receiving a lower dosage of chloroquine to determine if it was effective in COVID-19 patients and that more studies evaluating the effects of the drug when given earlier in the course of the disease are "urgently needed," according to the Times

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