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May - 2020


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Association of Treatment With Hydroxychloroquine or Azithromycin With In-Hospital Mortality in Patients With COVID-19 in New York State

E Rosenberg, E Dufort, T Udo et al New Eng J Med, 2020, Online May


This retrospective multicentre cohort study describes the outcomes of 1438 hospitalised patients with COVID-19 in New York who received hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, both or neither.  

The 4 groups were quite different at baseline. Unadjusted in-hospital mortality was 20.3% overall, with differences across groups. After adjustment, the hazard ratios for in-hospital mortality for treatments, compared to neither drug (n=221) were;

- hydroxychloroquine (n=271) alone 1.08

- azithromycin (n=211) alone 0.56

- combined hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin (n=735) was 1.35. 

None of these hazard ratios were statistically significant.

The secondary outcomes of abnormal ECG were more common in groups receiving hydroxychloroquine, although this was not significant after logistic regression. Cardiac  arrest, after adjusted analysis, was more common in hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, but not hydroxychloroquine alone, compared to neither. 

Overall this retrospective study of 1438 hospitalised patients with COVID-19 receiving hydroxychloroquine with or without azithromycin reported no significant difference in mortality. 



Importance  Hydroxychloroquine, with or without azithromycin, has been considered as a possible therapeutic agent for patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). However, there are limited data on efficacy and associated adverse events.

Objective  To describe the association between use of hydroxychloroquine, with or without azithromycin, and clinical outcomes among hospital inpatients diagnosed with COVID-19.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Retrospective multicenter cohort study of patients from a random sample of all admitted patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 in 25 hospitals, representing 88.2% of patients with COVID-19 in the New York metropolitan region. Eligible patients were admitted for at least 24 hours between March 15 and 28, 2020. Medications, preexisting conditions, clinical measures on admission, outcomes, and adverse events were abstracted from medical records. The date of final follow-up was April 24, 2020.

Exposures  Receipt of both hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, hydroxychloroquine alone, azithromycin alone, or neither.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Primary outcome was in-hospital mortality. Secondary outcomes were cardiac arrest and abnormal electrocardiogram findings (arrhythmia or QT prolongation).

Results  Among 1438 hospitalized patients with a diagnosis of COVID-19 (858 [59.7%] male, median age, 63 years), those receiving hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, or both were more likely than those not receiving either drug to have diabetes, respiratory rate >22/min, abnormal chest imaging findings, O2 saturation lower than 90%, and aspartate aminotransferase greater than 40 U/L. Overall in-hospital mortality was 20.3% (95% CI, 18.2%-22.4%). The probability of death for patients receiving hydroxychloroquine + azithromycin was 189/735 (25.7% [95% CI, 22.3%-28.9%]), hydroxychloroquine alone, 54/271 (19.9% [95% CI, 15.2%-24.7%]), azithromycin alone, 21/211 (10.0% [95% CI, 5.9%-14.0%]), and neither drug, 28/221 (12.7% [95% CI, 8.3%-17.1%]). In adjusted Cox proportional hazards models, compared with patients receiving neither drug, there were no significant differences in mortality for patients receiving hydroxychloroquine + azithromycin (HR, 1.35 [95% CI, 0.76-2.40]), hydroxychloroquine alone (HR, 1.08 [95% CI, 0.63-1.85]), or azithromycin alone (HR, 0.56 [95% CI, 0.26-1.21]). In logistic models, compared with patients receiving neither drug cardiac arrest was significantly more likely in patients receiving hydroxychloroquine + azithromycin (adjusted OR, 2.13 [95% CI, 1.12-4.05]), but not hydroxychloroquine alone (adjusted OR, 1.91 [95% CI, 0.96-3.81]) or azithromycin alone (adjusted OR, 0.64 [95% CI, 0.27-1.56]), . In adjusted logistic regression models, there were no significant differences in the relative likelihood of abnormal electrocardiogram findings.

Conclusions and Relevance  Among patients hospitalized in metropolitan New York with COVID-19, treatment with hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, or both, compared with neither treatment, was not significantly associated with differences in in-hospital mortality. However, the interpretation of these findings may be limited by the observational design.


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