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Hydroxychloroquine used to treat Rochester COVID-19 patients, but doctors urge caution

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Both major hospital systems in Rochester have been using hydroxychloroquine — one of the drugs touted by President Donald Trump — as a treatment for COVID-19 patients.

Still, neither Rochester Regional Health nor the University of Rochester Medical Center view the drug as a panacea for the disease. Used most commonly as a treatment for malaria and autoimmune diseases, local doctors said its effectiveness against COVID-19 is poorly understood.

“It's really clear as mud,” said Dr. Maryrose Laguio-Vila, the chief of the infectious diseases division at Rochester General Hospital. 

Dr. Maryrose Laguio-Vila, chief of the infectious diseases division at Rochester General Hospital, says in a virtual news conference that the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19 is "clear as mud." - PHOTO BY BRETT DAHLBERG
  • PHOTO BY BRETT DAHLBERG
  • Dr. Maryrose Laguio-Vila, chief of the infectious diseases division at Rochester General Hospital, says in a virtual news conference that the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19 is "clear as mud."
Some patients at RGH have improved after receiving hydroxychloroquine, she said. Others have died.

Laguio-Vila said she wants randomized clinical trials to determine how effective the drug is and who’s a good candidate for its use.

Careless science has come out of previous epidemics, she said, leaving clinicians without evidence that would have been helpful in future outbreaks.



“There will be another pandemic,” Laguilo-Vila said. “We owe it to our future and our children to learn something.”

Brett Dahlberg is a health reporter for WXXI News, a media partner of CITY. He can be reached at bdahlberg@wxxi.org.