Hydroxychloroquine safety: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
Eljaaly, Khalid et al.
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Background: Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is currently being examined for COVID-19. No previous meta-analysis has evaluated its side effects versus placebo. We conducted this meta-analysis to compare the safety of HCQ versus placebo. Methods: Two authors independently searched PubMed and EMBASE databases for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of adults comparing the adverse events (AEs) of HCQ versus placebo for any indication. Peto odds ratios (Peto ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated based on random-effects models. The heterogeneity (I2) was assessed using Cochran's Q test. Results: Nine RCTs (eight were double-blind) with a total of 916 patients were included. HCQ caused significantly more skin pigmentation than placebo (Peto OR, 4.64; 95% CI, 1.13 to 19.00; P-value = 0.033; I2 = 0%). The increase in other AEs did not reach statistical significance: rash (Peto OR, 1.11; 95% CI, 0.3 to 3.77; P-value = 0.03; I2 = 0%); gastrointestinal AEs (Peto OR, 1.43; 95% CI, 0.55 to 3.72; P-value = 0.46; I2 = 15.17%); headache (Peto OR, 1.94; 95% CI, 0.65 to 5.78; P-value = 0.23; I2 = 9.99%); dizziness (Peto OR, 1.32; 95% CI, 0.49 to 3.52; P-value = 0.58; I2 = 0%); fatigue (Peto OR, 2.13; 95% CI, 0.76 to 5.98; P-value = 0.15; I2 = 0%); and visual AEs (Peto OR, 1.61; 95% CI, 0.76 to 3.41; P-value = 0.22; I2 = 0%). Cardiac toxicity was not reported. Conclusions: This meta-analysis of RCTs found a significantly higher risk of skin pigmentation in HCQ users versus placebo. More data are needed to evaluate HCQ in the context of COVID-19 treatment.