Efficacy and safety of hydroxychloroquine as pre-and post-exposure prophylaxis and treatment of COVID-19: A systematic review and meta-analysis of blinded, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trials

Link to article at PubMed

Lancet Reg Health Am. 2021 Aug 29:100062. doi: 10.1016/j.lana.2021.100062. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is an anti-malarial and immunomodulatory drug considered a potential candidate for drug repurposing in COVID-19 due to their in vitro antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2. Despite the potential antiviral effects and anti-inflammatory profile, the results based on clinical studies are contradictory. Therefore, the quality of the decision-making process from meta-analyses summarizing the available evidence selecting studies with different designs and unblinded trials is limited. The aim of this study was to synthesize the best evidence on the efficacy and safety of HCQ as pre-and post-exposure prophylaxis and treatment of non-hospitalized and hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

METHODS: Searches were performed in PubMed, Web of Science, Embase, Lilacs, the website ClinicalTrials.gov and the preprint server medRxiv from January 1, 2020 to May 17, 2021. The following elements were used to define eligibility criteria: (1) Population: individuals at high-risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (pre-exposure), individuals who had close contact with a positive or probable case of COVID-19 (post-exposure), non-hospitalized patients with COVID-19 and hospitalized patients with COVID-19; (2) Intervention: HCQ; (3) Comparison: placebo; (4) Outcomes: incidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection, need for hospitalization, length of hospital stay, need for invasive mechanical ventilation (MV), death, and adverse events; and (5) Study type: blinded, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trials (RCTs). Risk of bias was judged according to the Cochrane guidelines for RCTs. Treatment effects were reported as relative risk (RR) for dichotomous variables and mean difference (MD) for continuous variables with 95% confidence intervals (CI). We used either a fixed or random-effects model to pool the results of individual studies depending on the presence of heterogeneity. The GRADE system was used to evaluate the strength of evidence between use of HCQ and the outcomes of interest.

FINDINGS: Fourteen blinded, placebo-controlled RCTs were included in this meta-analysis. Four trials (1942 patients: HCQ = 1271; placebo = 671) used HCQ as a prophylactic medication pre-exposure to COVID-19, two (1650 patients: HCQ = 821; placebo = 829) as a prophylactic medication post-exposure to COVID-19, three (1018 patients: HCQ = 497; placebo = 521) as treatment for non-hospitalized patients, and five (1138 patients: HCQ = 572; placebo = 566) as treatment for hospitalized patients with COVID-19. We found no decreased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection among individuals receiving HCQ as pre-exposure (RR = 0.90; 95% CI 0.46 to 1.77) or post-exposure (RR = 0.96; 95% CI 0.72 to 1.29) prophylaxis to prevent COVID-19. There was no significant decreased risk of hospitalization for outpatients with SARS-CoV-2 infection (RR = 0.64; 95% CI 0.33 to 1.23) and no decreased risk of MV (RR = 0.81; 95% CI 0.49 to 1.34) and death (RR = 1.05; 95% CI 0.62 to 1.78) among hospitalized patients with COVID-19 receiving HCQ. The certainty of the results on the lack of clinical benefit for HCQ was rated as moderate. Moreover, our results demonstrated an increased risk for any adverse events and gastrointestinal symptoms among those using HCQ.

INTERPRETATION: Available evidence based on the results of blinded, placebo-controlled RCTs showed no clinical benefits of HCQ as pre-and post-exposure prophylaxis and treatment of non-hospitalized and hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

FUNDING: There was no funding source.

PMID:34485970 | PMC:PMC8403035 | DOI:10.1016/j.lana.2021.100062

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