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Risk of hydroxychloroquine alone and in combination with azithromycin in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: a multinational, retrospective study

Lane et al., The Lancet Rheumatology, doi:10.1016/S2665-9913(20)30276-9
Lane et al., Risk of hydroxychloroquine alone and in combination with azithromycin in the treatment of rheumatoid.., The Lancet Rheumatology, doi:10.1016/S2665-9913(20)30276-9
Aug 2020   Source   PDF  
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Retrospective study of RA patients using HCQ vs. sulfasalazine (another DMARD). HCQ treatment showed no increased risk in the short term (up to 30 days) among patients with RA. Long term use was associated with excess cardiovascular mortality.
Addition of AZ increased the risk of cardiovascular mortality with combined use up to 30 days. This is several times longer than typical COVID-19 use. This result also comes from just 2 of the 14 databases, with the negative result from just one database (VA) and much lower statistically insignifant difference in mortality from the other database (Clinformatics).
Confounding by indication. Patients conditions vary, the severity of a patient's RA or other conditions was not taken into account. Results varied widely across different databases, and different subsets of databases were used in different analyses. Baseline risk of serious adverse events unknown. Health care database analysis subject to misclassification errors.
Lane et al., 21 Aug 2020, peer-reviewed, 62 authors.
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Risk of hydroxychloroquine alone and in combination with azithromycin in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis: a multinational, retrospective study
Jennifer C E Lane, MSc James Weaver, Kristin Kostka, PhD Talita Duarte-Salles, Maria Tereza F Abrahao, Heba Alghoul, Osaid Alser, Thamir M Alshammari, Patricia Biedermann, Juan M Banda, Edward Burn, Paula Casajust, PhD Mitchell M Conover, Aedin C Culhane, MD Alexander Davydov, Scott L Duvall, MD, O Zhuk MD Dmitry Dymshyts, MSc Sergio Fernandez-Bertolin, Kristina Fišter, PhD Jill Hardin, Laura Hester, Prof George Hripcsak, Benjamin Skov Kaas-Hansen, Seamus Kent, Sajan Khosla, PhD Spyros Kolovos, Christophe G Lambert, Prof Johan Van Der Lei, Kristine E Lynch, PhD Rupa Makadia, Andrea V Margulis, Michael E Matheny, Paras Mehta, Daniel R Morales, Henry Morgan-Stewart, Mees Mosseveld, Danielle Newby, PhD Fredrik Nyberg, Anna Ostropolets, Rae Woong Park, Albert Prats-Uribe, Gowtham A Rao, Christian Reich, Jenna Reps, Peter Rijnbeek, Selva Muthu Kumaran Sathappan, Martijn Schuemie, Sarah Seager, Anthony G Sena, Azza Shoaibi, Matthew Spotnitz, Marc A Suchard, Carmen O Torre, David Vizcaya, Haini Wen, Marcel De Wilde, Junqing Xie, Seng Chan You, Lin Zhang, Oleg Zhuk, Dr Patrick Ryan, Daniel Prieto-Alhambra
The Lancet Rheumatology, doi:10.1016/s2665-9913(20)30276-9
Background Hydroxychloroquine, a drug commonly used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, has received much negative publicity for adverse events associated with its authorisation for emergency use to treat patients with COVID-19 pneumonia. We studied the safety of hydroxychloroquine, alone and in combination with azithromycin, to determine the risk associated with its use in routine care in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Methods In this multinational, retrospective study, new user cohort studies in patients with rheumatoid arthritis aged 18 years or older and initiating hydroxychloroquine were compared with those initiating sulfasalazine and followed up over 30 days, with 16 severe adverse events studied. Self-controlled case series were done to further establish safety in wider populations, and included all users of hydroxychloroquine regardless of rheumatoid arthritis status or indication. Separately, severe adverse events associated with hydroxychloroquine plus azithromycin (compared with hydroxychloroquine plus amoxicillin) were studied. Data comprised 14 sources of claims data or electronic medical records from Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK, and the USA. Propensity score stratification and calibration using negative control outcomes were used to address confounding. Cox models were fitted to estimate calibrated hazard ratios (HRs) according to drug use. Estimates were pooled where the I² value was less than 0•4. Findings The study included 956 374 users of hydroxychloroquine, 310 350 users of sulfasalazine, 323 122 users of hydroxychloroquine plus azithromycin, and 351 956 users of hydroxychloroquine plus amoxicillin. No excess risk of severe adverse events was identified when 30-day hydroxychloroquine and sulfasalazine use were compared. Selfcontrolled case series confirmed these findings. However, long-term use of hydroxychloroquine appeared to be associated with increased cardiovascular mortality (calibrated HR 1•65 [95% CI 1•12-2•44]). Addition of azithromycin appeared to be associated with an increased risk of 30-day cardiovascular mortality (calibrated HR 2•19 [95% CI 1•22-3•95]), chest pain or angina (1•15 [1•05-1•26]), and heart failure (1•22 [1•02-1•45]). Interpretation Hydroxychloroquine treatment appears to have no increased risk in the short term among patients with rheumatoid arthritis, but in the long term it appears to be associated with excess cardiovascular mortality. The addition of azithromycin increases the risk of heart failure and cardiovascular mortality even in the short term. We call for careful consideration of the benefit-risk trade-off when counselling those on hydroxychloroquine treatment.
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