Objective: Given the increased use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), chloroquine (CQ), and azithromycin (AZM) during the early months of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, there is a need to evaluate the associated safety concerns. The objective of this study was to summarize the adverse drug events (ADEs) associated with HCQ, CQ, and AZM use during the national COVID-19 emergency and compare the results with known adverse reactions listed in the drugs' package inserts.
Methods: A cross-sectional study design was used. The publicly available Food and Drug Administration Adverse Event Reporting System quarterly data extract files from January 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020 were downloaded. A disproportionality analysis was conducted using the proportional reporting ratio to identify possible ADE signals. A Poisson regression was used to assess if the number of ADE reports for the 3 drugs increased over time.
Results: There was a statistically significant increasing trend in the reported ADEs for both HCQ (P < 0.001) and AZM (P < 0.001). Before the declaration of the national emergency, there were 592 reported drug-ADE pairs for the 3 drugs compared with 2492 drug-ADE pairs reported after March 13, 2020. These 2492 drug-ADE pairs represented 848 ADEs across the 3 drugs, of which 114 (13.4%) were identified as potential signals including 55 (48.2%) that were not listed in the prescribing information.
Conclusions: Our results showed that the reported ADEs for HCQ and AZM have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Differences were observed in both the type of and frequency of the highest reported ADEs for the 3 selected drugs before and after the national emergency declaration. Although causation cannot be determined from ADE reports, further investigation of some reports may be warranted. Our results highlight the need for pharmacovigilance and education of health care professionals on the safety of these drugs when being used for COVID-19 prophylaxis or treatment.
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