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Pharmacoepidemiology, Machine Learning and COVID-19: An intent-to-treat analysis of hydroxychloroquine, with or without azith...

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American Journal of Epidemiology
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Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) was proposed as an early therapy for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) after in vitro studies indicated possible benefit. Previous in vivo observational studies have presented conflicting results, though recent randomized clinical trials have reported no benefit from HCQ amongst hospitalized COVID-19 patients. We examined the effects of HCQ alone, and in combination with azithromycin, in a hospitalized COVID-19 positive, United States (US) Veteran population using a propensity score adjusted survival analysis with imputation of missing data. From March 1, 2020 through April 30, 2020, 64,055 US Veterans were tested for COVID-19 based on Veteran Affairs Healthcare Administration electronic health record data. Of the 7,193 positive cases, 2,809 were hospitalized, and 657 individuals were prescribed HCQ within the first 48-hours of hospitalization for the treatment of COVID-19. There was no apparent benefit associated with HCQ receipt, alone or in combination with azithromycin, and an increased risk of intubation when used in combination with azithromycin [Hazard Ratio (95% Confidence Interval): 1.55 (1.07, 2.24)]. In conclusion, we assessed the effectiveness of HCQ with or without azithromycin in treating patients hospitalized with COVID-19 using a national sample of the US Veteran population. Using rigorous study design and analytic methods to reduce confounding and bias, we found no evidence of a survival benefit from the administration of HCQ.