Hydroxychloroquine, a widely available and inexpensive drug initially used for malaria as well as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, has been the subject of intense medical and political debate as researchers work quickly to determine its ability to fight coronavirus. According to this week’s Sermo COVID-19 Real Time Barometer of 5,158 physicians, one-quarter of global physicians agree that healthcare workers should take hydroxychloroquine to prevent COVID-19 infections with 50% having used or seen hydroxychloroquine used in their professional settings since March 25, 2020.
There is little data about the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has cited cardiotoxicity as a leading concern with the treatment, particularly in patients with underlying health issues and immunosuppression.
Hydroxychloroquine use among patients:
In the US alone, there are more than 24 hydroxychloroquine trials underway to test the drug’s capabilities for preventing and treating coronavirus. While universities like NYU Langone Medical School are evaluating whether hydroxychloroquine can prevent people exposed to the novel coronavirus from getting sick and states like South Dakota are conducting their own clinical trials, physicians are increasingly tasked with making real-time decisions based on the limited information available.
Prophylactic use of Hydroxychloroquine for patients:
By the first week of April 2020, of the physicians who had prescribed hydroxychloroquine to their patients, 22% of them had already prescribed or had seen hydroxychloroquine prescribed prophylactically in their setting (n=1443).
While most patient types receiving hydroxychloroquine were high risk (including first responders), a significant share of physicians had even used hydroxychloroquine for low risk patients:
- 87% of physicians indicated use in high risk patients, including first responders (n= 277)
- 31% of physicians indicated use for low risk patients (n=100)
Hydroxychloroquine usage for suspected undiagnosed cases:
Findings from the Sermo study also reveal that physicians have prescribed hydroxychloroquine for both symptomatic patients and undiagnosed patients, and the use of hydroxychloroquine in clinical settings has been on the rise since March 25, 2020. As of April 8, 50% of global physicians have used or seen hydroxychloroquine used in their professional settings (Week 1, March 25: 33%; Week 2, April 1: 44%; Week 3, April 8th: 50%).
Additionally, physicians reported the patient types they are treating with hydroxychloroquine include:
- Week 1 through Week 2 – 57% vs. 65% (respectively) of physicians used hydroxychloroquine for diagnosed patients with severe symptoms
- Week 1 through Week 2 – 45% vs. 49% (respectively) of physicians used hydroxychloroquine for diagnosed patients with mild symptoms
- Week 1 through Week 2 – 17% vs. 22% (respectively) of physicians used hydroxychloroquine for undiagnosed patients with severe symptoms
- Week 1 through Week 2 – 16% of physicians used hydroxychloroquine for undiagnosed patients with mild symptoms
N= physicians who have prescribed hydroxychloroquine (W1: 2573, W2: 1443)
An anonymous emergency medicine physician on Sermo commented: “Despite the superstorm of controversy surrounding hydroxychloroquine, it still remains the leading treatment option for severe patients and is even being used in milder cases and patients who are simply suspected of COVID. At this stage with so little evidence, doctors have very limited options.”
Sermo’s COVID-19 Real Time Barometer observational study polled over 20,000 expert physicians in 30 countries, including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Brazil, Russia, China, Japan and Australia. All data published to date can be found here.
Sermo is the largest healthcare data collection company and social platform for physicians, reaching 1,3MM HCPs across 150 countries. The platform enables doctors to anonymously talk real-world medicine, review treatment options via our proprietary Drug Ratings platform, collectively solve patient cases, and participate in medical market research. For more information, visit sermo.com.