ARTICLE | doi:10.20944/preprints202303.0325.v1
Subject: Biology And Life Sciences, Virology Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; hydroxychloroquine; azithromycin; QTc interval; cardiac rhythm; safety; torsades de pointe
Online: 17 March 2023 (11:34:00 CET)
Background Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) combined with azithromycin (AZM) has been widely administered to patients with COVID-19 despite scientific controversies. In particular the potential to prolong cardiac repolarisation by using this combination has been discussed. Materials and methods We report a pragmatic and simple safety approach which we implemented in the first patients treated for COVID-19 in our center early 2020. Treatment contraindications were the presence of severe structural or electrical heart disease, baseline corrected QT interval (QTc) >500 ms, hypokalaemia, or other drugs prolonging QTc that could not be interrupted. Electrocardiogram and QTc was evaluated at admission and re-evaluated after 48 hours of the initial prescription. Results Among 424 consecutive adults (mean age 46.3 ± 16.1 years; 216 women). Patients were followed in conventional wards (21.5%) or in a day-care unit (78.5%). A total of 11 patients (2.6%) had contraindications to HCQ-AZ combination. In the remaining 413 treated patients, there were no arrhythmic events in any patient during the 10-day treatment regimen. QTc was slightly but statistically significantly prolonged by 3.75 ± 25.4 ms after two days (p=0.003). Ten patients (2.4%) developed QTc prolongation >60 ms, and none had QTc >500 ms. Conclusions This report do not aim to contribute to knowledge of the efficacy of treating COVID-19 with HCQ-AZ. However, a simple initial assessment of patient medical history, ECG and kalaemia identifies contraindicated patients and enables the safe treatment by HCQ-AZ of COVID-19 patients. QT-prolonging anti-infective drugs can be used safely in acute life-threatening infections, provided that a strict protocol and close collaboration between infectious disease specialists and rhythmologists are followed.