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Antimalarial drug killed some 200 Covid patients in NL: study
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The use of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine in the first months of the Covid pandemic may have cost the lives of some 200 patients in the Netherlands, according to new research

Calculations by a French team of scientists show the side effects of the drug killed at least 17,000 people worldwide. The real number is probably higher because of “incomplete data from most countries”, the researchers said.

It is not clear exactly how many people died from the side effects of the drug in the Netherlands, microbiologist and doctor Marc Bonten told the Volkskrant. Some 10,000 seriously ill patients were treated with the drug of whom some 2,000 died. Around 200 would have have survived without the drug, he said.

“In dramatic terms it’s a plane full of people. But I don’t think it’s something you can blame anyone for. Intensive care wards were full, people were dying and we had nothing. And lab research had shown this drug might work,”  he told the paper.

Hydroxychloroquine was used in the first few months of the pandemic in elderly patients who were very ill with Covid. Doubts about its safe use surfaced at the time because of the age of the patients and side effects which included cardiac arrest and arrhythmia.

In June the use of hydroxychloroquine was halted when a study by British scientists showed that patients treated with the drug were 11% more likely to die than those who did not get the drug.

“All studies were stopped then, because it became clear that giving Covid patients hydroxychloroquine was not a good idea,” Bonten said.

By then, former presidents Donald Trump and Jaïr Bolsonaro had embraced the use of the drug as a game-changer. In the Netherlands, FvD leader Thierry Baudet called it “an effective medicine” and it was promoted widely in anti-vax circles.

The French team slated the promotion of a drug that had not been evaluated by people in authority “based on their personal convictions”.

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