Mayo Clinic warns of risk of sudden cardiac death in use of off-label COVID-19 treatments

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 26: In this photo illustration a pack of Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate medication is held up on March 26, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to many countries across the world, c ( John Phillips/Getty Images )

The Mayo Clinic is warning health care providers that some patients may be at risk of sudden cardiac death from the use of off-label COVID-19 treatments. 

Hydroxychloroquine is one such drug being used off-label to treat COVID-19 patients.

Hydroxychloroquine is a preventative and treatment drug for malaria that is also used to manage and minimize symptoms of inflammatory immune disease, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. 

The Mayo Clinic says laboratory tests have shown hydroxychloroquine can prevent the viruses that cause COVID-19 from attaching to and entering cells. 

Medications like hydroxychloroquine, however, block one of the critical potassium channels that control the heart’s electrical recharging system, according to a news release. This interference increases the possibility that the heart’s rhythm could degenerate into dangerous erratic heart beats, resulting ultimately in sudden cardiac deaths. 

The Mayo Clinic says health care providers need to identify patients at increased risk of drug-induced sudden cardiac death to determine whether the risks outweigh the benefits of using the medication to treat the coronavirus. 

Doctors say about 90 percent of patients will be at “extremely low risk for this side effect,” according to a news release. 

Ultimately, however, it all depends on whether hydroxychloroquine is truly an effective treatment against COVID-19.