Background and objective: The world is currently experiencing the Coronavirus Disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic. There is no approved drug for the definitive treatment of the disease. Various drugs are being tried for the treatment of COVID-19, including hydroxychloroquine (HCQ). This study was performed to systematically review the therapeutic role of HCQ in COVID-19 from the available literature.
Methods: PubMed, Embase, ClinicalTrials.gov, ICTRP (WHO), Cochrane Library databases, and two pre-print servers (medRxiv.org and Research Square) were searched for clinical studies that evaluated the therapeutic role of HCQ on COVID-19 until 10 May 2020. The available studies were critically analyzed and the data were extracted.
Results: A total of 663 articles were screened and 12 clinical studies (seven peer-reviewed and published studies and five non-peer-reviewed studies from pre-print servers) with a total sample size of 3543 patients were included. Some of the clinical studies demonstrated good virological and clinical outcomes with HCQ alone or in combination with azithromycin in COVID-19 patients, although the studies had major methodological limitations. Some of the other studies showed negative results with HCQ therapy along with the risk of adverse reactions.
Conclusion: The results of efficacy and safety of HCQ in COVID-19, as obtained from the clinical studies, are not satisfactory, although many of these studies had major methodological limitations. Stronger evidence from well-designed robust randomized clinical trials is required before conclusively determining the role of HCQ in the treatment of COVID-19. Clinical prudence is required in advocating HCQ as a therapeutic armamentarium in COVID-19.