Real-world Evidence of the Effects of Novel Treatments for COVID-19 on Mortality: A Nationwide Comparative Cohort Study of Hospitalized Patients in the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Waves in the Netherlands

Open Forum Infect Dis. 2022 Nov 22;9(12):ofac632. doi: 10.1093/ofid/ofac632. eCollection 2022 Dec.


Background: Large clinical trials on drugs for hospitalized coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients have shown significant effects on mortality. There may be a discrepancy with the observed real-world effect. We describe the clinical characteristics and outcomes of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the Netherlands during 4 pandemic waves and analyze the association of the newly introduced treatments with mortality, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, and discharge alive.

Methods: We conducted a nationwide retrospective analysis of hospitalized COVID-19 patients between February 27, 2020, and December 31, 2021. Patients were categorized into waves and into treatment groups (hydroxychloroquine, remdesivir, neutralizing severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 monoclonal antibodies, corticosteroids, and interleukin [IL]-6 antagonists). Four types of Cox regression analyses were used: unadjusted, adjusted, propensity matched, and propensity weighted.

Results: Among 5643 patients from 11 hospitals, we observed a changing epidemiology during 4 pandemic waves, with a decrease in median age (67-64 years; P < .001), in in-hospital mortality on the ward (21%-15%; P < .001), and a trend in the ICU (24%-16%; P = .148). In ward patients, hydroxychloroquine was associated with increased mortality (1.54; 95% CI, 1.22-1.96), and remdesivir was associated with a higher rate of discharge alive within 29 days (1.16; 95% CI, 1.03-1.31). Corticosteroids were associated with a decrease in mortality (0.82; 95% CI, 0.69-0.96); the results of IL-6 antagonists were inconclusive. In patients directly admitted to the ICU, hydroxychloroquine, corticosteroids, and IL-6 antagonists were not associated with decreased mortality.

Conclusions: Both remdesivir and corticosteroids were associated with better outcomes in ward patients with COVID-19. Continuous evaluation of real-world treatment effects is needed.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; antiviral; epidemiology; immunosuppressive treatments.