Anti-malaria drugs taken by Donald Trump to prevent contracting Covid-19 could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by 30 times, new research warns.
Side effects include irregular heart beats, heart failure and damage to the organ’s muscle, all of which are life threatening, say scientists.
Senior author Professor Elad Maor, of Tel-Aviv University, Israel, said: “Moreover, we show how these adverse events carry high risks for severe outcomes including death, even with standard doses of the drugs.”
It was confirmed by the White House in May Donald Trump had been taking hydroxychloroquine every day for two weeks.
This was with the consent of his doctor.
Prof Maor added: “The take home message of our work is physicians around the world should be careful when prescribing these drugs for off label indications, especially for patients with cardiac disorders.”
Trump said he had “heard a lot of good stories” about the drug and in March claimed it could be a “game changer”.
He also incorrectly suggested there was no evidence of harmful side-effects from taking it.
A day after Trump’s boasts about taking the drug the World Health Organisation suspended a trial of hydoxychloroquine in coronavirus patients over safety concerns.
The findings, published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, gave better understanding of taking hydroxychloroquine or its analog chloroquine for the coronavirus.
They are being widely used as potential therapies following Trump’s backing. The analysis is based on the Food and Drug Administration Adverse Events Reporting System.
It found the drugs were associated with higher rates of various cardiovascular problems.
Out of almost 4,895 accounts of adverse events, one in seven (696) were cardiovascular related.
Almost 40 percent (296) of them ended up in hospital, and around one in twelve died.
Compared with the full global database of almost 6.7 million cases, their use was 29 times more likely to lead to damage to the heart muscle itself, known medically as cardiomyopathy.
Heart rhythm issues increased four and a half times, and irregular heart beats and heart failure more than doubled.
Prof Maor said: “Overall, hospitalisation rate due to any cardiovascular adverse event was 39 percent, and life-threatening events and deaths were reported in 9 and 8 percent of the cases, 63 and 56, respectively.”
The drug, which has been used for over 70 years to treat malaria, has also proved effective against auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Prof Maor added: “In a real-world setting, a wide array of cardiovascular adverse events are associated with hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine treatment of non-Covid-19 patients.
“These carry a high risk for severe outcomes, including death, even with standard doses.”