A research collaboration between Georgia Tech and Emory University, with funding from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, studied the effects of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) on heart rhythm in animal models. Flavio Fenton, PhD, professor in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology and co-author of the publication, notes that results in animal heart models do not always translate to human models, but testing in this study was conducted with guinea pig and rabbit hearts which are smaller and more resistant to the form of arrhythmia the team was targeting.

Even with this implied resistance, elongation of the T wave (long QT) was observed consistently, indicating that HCQ doses used for COVID-19 treatment, which can be two to three times the dose recommended for the drug’s original indications, can likely trigger arrhythmias in patients with COVID-19, especially those with underlying cardiac issues or new cardiac damage.

Lead co-author and cardiologist in the Division of Cardiology, Section of Electrophysiology at Emory University Hospital, Shahriar Iravanian, MD, believes “This finding is very concerning and, in combination with the clinical reports of sudden death and arrhythmia in COVID-19 patients taking HCQ, suggests that the drug should be considered a potentially harmful medication and its use in COVID-19 patients be restricted to clinical trial settings.”

Review the pre-proof publication in Heart Rhythm Journal by clicking here.