Cardiac safety of off-label COVID-19 drug therapy: a review and proposed monitoring protocol

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88 Scopus citations


More than 2,000,000 individuals worldwide have had coronavirus 2019 disease infection (COVID-19), yet there is no effective medical therapy. Multiple off-label and investigational drugs, such as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, have gained broad interest due to positive pre-clinical data and are currently used for treatment of COVID-19. However, some of these medications have potential cardiac adverse effects. This is important because up to one-third of patients with COVID-19 have cardiac injury, which can further increase the risk of cardiomyopathy and arrhythmias. Adverse effects of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine on cardiac function and conduction are broad and can be fatal. Both drugs have an anti-arrhythmic property and are proarrhythmic. The American Heart Association has listed chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as agents which can cause direct myocardial toxicity. Similarly, other investigational drugs such as favipiravir and lopinavir/ritonavir can prolong QT interval and cause Torsade de Pointes. Many antibiotics commonly used for the treatment of patients with COVID-19, for instance azithromycin, can also prolong QT interval. This review summarizes evidenced-based data regarding potential cardiac adverse effects due to off-label and investigational drugs including chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, antiviral therapy, monoclonal antibodies, as well as common antibiotics used for the treatment of COVID-19. The article focuses on practical points and offers a point-of-care protocol for providers who are taking care of patients with COVID-19 in an inpatient and outpatient setting. The proposed protocol is taking into consideration that resources during the pandemic are limited.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-221
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean heart journal. Acute cardiovascular care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • adverse effects
  • arrhythmias
  • cardiac
  • drugs
  • treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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