Dr. Anthony Fauci told federal lawmakers Friday that a study by Henry Ford Health System that showed hydroxychloroquine was effective in lowering the death rate among COVID-19 patients was “flawed.”
Health officials should instead rely on the “gold standard” of a randomized, placebo controlled study to determine whether the drug is effective, Fauci told the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.
“The Henry Ford Hospital study that was published was a non-controlled retrospective cohort study that was confounded by a number of issues, including the fact that many people who were receiving hydroxychloroquine were also using corticosteroids, which we know from another study gives a clear benefit in reducing deaths with advanced disease,” said Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert advising the White House on the coronavirus response.
“So that study is a flawed study,” Fauci said after Missouri Republican U.S. Rep. Blaine Leutkemeyer asked him about the trial.
Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System did not immediately return an email seeking comment, but the health system warned in its July 2 news release about the study that follow-up trials were needed.
Fauci’s comments come roughly a month after the Henry Ford Health System released a study alleging the controversial anti-malarial drug helped lower the death rate of COVID-19 patients “significantly.”
The study analyzed 2,541 patients between March 10 and May 2 and found 13% of those treated with hydroxychloroquine died while 26% of those who did not receive the drug died.
The hospital attributed its findings — which differed from other study results — to earlier treatment, cardiac monitoring, new dosing and a different patient population.
“We also found that using steroids early in the infection associated with a reduction in mortality,” Dr. Marcus Zervos, division head of infectious disease for the health system, said July 2.
Zervos also warned in a news release that the results needed further study, should not be extrapolated for use outside the hospital and would require “further confirmation in prospective, randomized controlled trials that rigorously evaluate the safety and efficacy of hydroxychloroquine therapy for COVID-19.”
But Fauci said the studies federal leaders should be relying on should be randomized and placebo controlled. He dismissed the fact that Henry Ford’s study was peer-reviewed.
“You can peer review something that’s a bad study,” he said.
None of the randomized, placebo-controlled studies have found hydroxychloroquine to be effective, Fauci told lawmakers.
If they did, he said, “I would be the first one to admit it and to promote it, but I have not seen yet a randomized placebo controlled trial that’s done that.”
“I don’t have any horse in the game one way or the other,” he said. “I just look at the data.”