Introduction: Given the current lack of an approved and effective treatment or vaccine for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), repositioning old drugs for use as an antiviral treatment is an interesting strategy because knowledge about these drugs’ safety profile, posology, and drug interactions is already known. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, widely used as antimalarial and autoimmune disease drugs, have recently been reported as a potential broad-spectrum antiviral drug.
Background: The in vitro antiviral activity of chloroquine has been identified since the late 1960s. However, antiviral mechanisms of chloroquine remain speculative. Several clinical trials have been conducted to test the efficacy and safety of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of COVID-19-associated pneumonia. The quality of the studies and the outcomes are evaluated in this systematic review and meta-analysis.
Review results: Literature review revealed 23 clinical studies. Only 9 of 23 studies were randomized controlled trials. Of nine randomized controlled trials, only study by Skipper et al. was deemed to be at low risk of bias. All studies evaluated variedwith different outcomes. Mechanical ventilation and virological clearance were the only common outcomes evaluated in more than two studies. Virological clearance odds ratio (OR) was 1.25 (95% confidence interval [CI] of 0.57–2.73; Chi2 = 0.83; I2 = 0%). GRADE quality of evidence was downgraded by three levels to very low due to concerns about the risk of bias, inconsistency, and imprecision. For mechanical ventilation, OR was 1.09 (95% CI 0.80–1.50; Chi2 = 0; I2 = 0). GRADE quality of evidence was downgraded by two levels to low due to concerns about the risk of bias and imprecision. There was no statistically significant difference between the groups for these two outcomes.
Conclusion: As per the available evidence, based on our review, we conclude that hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine has not shown to be beneficial when used for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 pneumonia.
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