Document Type


Publication Date



This is the final published version of the article from the Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2020 Sep 1;22(9):e21758.

The article can also be accessed at the journal's website:

Copyright. The Authors.

Publication made possible in part by support from the Jefferson Open Access Fund


BACKGROUND: During the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an unfounded fervor surrounding the use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and tocilizumab (TCZ); however, evidence on their efficacy and safety have been controversial.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study is to evaluate the overall clinical effectiveness of HCQ and TCZ in patients with COVID-19. We hypothesize that HCQ and TCZ use in these patients will be associated with a reduction in in-hospital mortality, upgrade to intensive medical care, invasive mechanical ventilation, or acute renal failure needing dialysis.

METHODS: A retrospective cohort study was performed to determine the impact of HCQ and TCZ use on hard clinical outcomes during hospitalization. A total of 176 hospitalized patients with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis was included. Patients were divided into two comparison groups: (1) HCQ (n=144) vs no-HCQ (n=32) and (2) TCZ (n=32) vs no-TCZ (n=144). The mean age, baseline comorbidities, and other medications used during hospitalization were uniformly distributed among all the groups. Independent t tests and multivariate logistic regression analysis were performed to calculate mean differences and adjusted odds ratios with 95% CIs, respectively.

RESULTS: The unadjusted odds ratio for patients upgraded to a higher level of care (ie, intensive care unit) (OR 2.6, 95% CI 1.19-5.69; P=.003) and reductions in C-reactive protein (CRP) level on day 7 of hospitalization (21% vs 56%, OR 0.21, 95% CI 0.08-0.55; P=.002) were significantly higher in the TCZ group compared to the control group. There was no significant difference in the odds of in-hospital mortality, upgrade to intensive medical care, need for invasive mechanical ventilation, acute kidney failure necessitating dialysis, or discharge from the hospital after recovery in both the HCQ and TCZ groups compared to their respective control groups. Adjusted odds ratios controlled for baseline comorbidities and medications closely followed the unadjusted estimates.

CONCLUSIONS: In this cohort of patients with COVID-19, neither HCQ nor TCZ offered a significant reduction in in-hospital mortality, upgrade to intensive medical care, invasive mechanical ventilation, or acute renal failure needing dialysis. These results are similar to the recently published preliminary results of the HCQ arm of the Recovery trial, which showed no clinical benefit from the use of HCQ in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 (the TCZ arm is ongoing). Double-blinded randomized controlled trials are needed to further evaluate the impact of these drugs in larger patient samples so that data-driven guidelines can be deduced to combat this global pandemic.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

PubMed ID