In late March, Sahlgrenska Hospital in Gothenburg was the first to announce that it was no longer prescribing chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of Covid-19. “I think all the clinics in Sweden started using this treatment when the first patients arrived. In Gothenburg, we were very careful from the start, says Magnus Gisslén, professor of infectious diseases and doctor at Sahlgrenska Hospital. We realized that the evidence of efficacy was weak, apart from a Chinese study, however carried out without a control group, and the French study where hydroxychloroquine is combined with azithromycin, study which we believe to be is not done well enough to demonstrate effectiveness. “
This specialist also highlights the risks of side effects of these drugs on the heart (heart rhythm disorders) but also in the kidneys. “We first decided to stop giving chloroquine to patients with kidney disease and then stop giving it at all, even though we didn’t see any side effects at home. Colleagues in Sweden and abroad have told us of suspicious cases, although it is unclear whether chloroquine was the cause of the observed effects or whether it was a consequence of the disease. “
“No solid conclusions”
As Sahlgrenska Hospital has the largest infectious clinic in Sweden, other hospitals in the country followed, starting with the Södersjukhuset in Stockholm. “I don’t think there is more than one hospital using these drugs today. The decision was a bit controversial at first, but quickly the drug agency came up with its own recommendations, which convinced those who still doubted, ” continues Magnus Gisslén.
In a statement issued on April 2, the Swedish Medicines Agency, Läkemedelsverket, believes that “The available data currently do not allow firm conclusions regarding the clinical and safety effects of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of patients with Covid-19”. Due to these uncertainties, the agency recommends their use “For the treatment of Covid-19 only in clinical studies”. The statement went on to strongly advise against self-medication, with a long list of side effects.