Bias in observational studies on the effectiveness of in hospital use of hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19

M. Hempenius, S. H. Bots, R. H.H. Groenwold, A. de Boer, O. H. Klungel, H. Gardarsdottir*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: During the first waves of the coronavirus pandemic, evidence on potential effective treatments was urgently needed. Results from observational studies on the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) were conflicting, potentially due to biases. We aimed to assess the quality of observational studies on HCQ and its relation to effect sizes. Methods: PubMed was searched on 15 March 2021 for observational studies on the effectiveness of in-hospital use of HCQ in COVID-19 patients, published between 01/01/2020 and 01/03/2021 on. Study quality was assessed using the ROBINS-I tool. Association between study quality and study characteristics (journal ranking, publication date, and time between submission and publication) and differences between effects sizes found in observational studies compared to those found in RCTs, were assessed using Spearman's correlation. Results: Eighteen of the 33 (55%) included observational studies were scored as critical risk of bias, eleven (33%) as serious risk and only four (12%) as moderate risk of bias. Biases were most often scored as critical in the domains related to selection of participants (n = 13, 39%) and bias due to confounding (n = 8, 24%). There were no significant associations found between the study quality and the characteristics nor between the study quality and the effect estimates. Discussion: Overall, the quality of observational HCQ studies was heterogeneous. Synthesis of evidence of effectiveness of HCQ in COVID-19 should focus on RCTs and carefully consider the added value and quality of observational evidence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1001-1011
Number of pages11
JournalPharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety
Volume32
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Keywords

  • bias
  • COVID-19
  • efficacy
  • hydroxychloroquine
  • methodology
  • pharmacoepidemiology
  • post market
  • regulatory

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