Scientists have emphatically proven the much-touted malaria medication endorsed by US President Donald Trump, Liberal MP Craig Kelly and mining magnate Clive Palmer does not help treat the coronavirus.
In fact, the science suggests it may be doing more harm than good.
Hydroxychloroquine has been held-up as a potential treatment for those suffering more harmful symptoms of the coronavirus, and has been at the centre of political battles across Australia and the United States.
Even the World Health Organisation and Australian researchers undertook trials of the drug but they were later cancelled.
On Friday, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine released its final, peer-reviewed version of the report which finds hydroxychloroquine does not stop people from dying from COVID-19.
The large study found deaths at 28 days occurred in 421 of 1561 patients (27.0%) in the hydroxychloroquine group and in 790 of 3155 patients (25.0%) who did not take the malaria medicine – a lower mortality rate.
Associate Professor in Epidemiology at La Trobe University Hassan Vally said the large, randomised study presented high-quality evidence that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment for the coronavirus.
“In summary, the results of this study should not be a surprise and should lay to rest for now the notion that hydroxychloroquine is a treatment for COVID-19,” professor Vally said.
“More concerningly, there is evidence that this drug may worsen outcomes. We should now focus our attention elsewhere on more promising treatments.”
Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly has been at the centre of advocacy for the medication and claimed in August that deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth had “misled” Australians and should resign.
It came after Dr Coatsworth criticised Mr Kelly’s constant social media posts in support of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug touted by some – including US President Donald Trump – as a possible coronavirus treatment in the early stages of the pandemic.
Australian officials do not support the drug’s use for COVID, with acting chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly saying “it doesn’t work”, and multiple large studies questioning its effectiveness.
Despite that, Mr Kelly has posted on his Facebook page – where he has nearly 60,000 followers – several times a day about hydroxychloroquine. In August, he also made a speech to that effect in parliament.
Chair of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Newcastle professor Jennifer Martin says this study should end the debate on the treatment.
“Hopefully this should be the end of any more trials of HCQ in COVID,” professor Martin said.
“In Australia, we need to be investing in clinical trials in COVID that are based on sound pharmacology, clinical pharmacology and toxicology, and pathophysiological response to COVID.”