The claim: Mayo Clinic updated guidance to say hydroxychloroquine is effective against COVID-19
“Mayo Clinic updates guidance, now states hydroxychloroquine is effective against COVID-19,” reads the headline in the image.
It was liked more than 300 times in two days.
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Our rating: False
There was no such update. A sentence saying hydroxychloroquine may be used to treat COVID-19 in some patients was posted on the Mayo Clinic's website in 2020, but the page was removed after coming to light on social media. The hospital's doctors say they do not recommend the drug as a COVID-19 treatment.
Key sentence traced to May 2020
Hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, was authorized as a COVID-19 treatment by the Food and Drug Administration in late March 2020 after small studies suggested it could be effective against it. The FDA revoked its emergency use authorization two months later after concluding it not only was likely ineffective but also could cause heart complications.
A section of the Mayo Clinic website includes a directory that lists hundreds of individual medications and their suggested uses. A line in one of those entries was the source of a claim circulating on social media.
The photo in the Instagram post shows the headline of a post on a blog run by conservative commentator Tim Pool. That story claims part of the entry for that drug had been updated to state: “Hydroxychloroquine may also be used to treat coronavirus (COVID-19) in certain hospitalized patients.”
But that sentence wasn’t new.
It had been included on the hospital's hydroxychloroquine page for more than three years. Archived versions of the website show it was not part of the entry on May 7, 2020, but had been added by May 22, 2020.
The hydroxychloroquine reference remained on the site until late September 2023, when it was taken down after receiving attention on social media. It was replaced by a story explaining why the hospital's doctors do not recommend the drug as a COVID-19 treatment.
The new story was written by Mayo Clinic staff. That is significant because the old one was provided by an outside vendor, hospital spokesperson Kristyn Jacobson said in an email to USA TODAY.
Jacobson did not respond to questions about how the sentence at the root of the claim was posted on the hospital's website in the first place and how it remained there for three years.
Archived versions of the page attributed that drug information to the Micromedex medical research database from Merative, a company formerly known as IBM Watson Health. USA TODAY reached out to a Merative spokesperson but did not immediately receive a response.
A disclaimer on the hospital’s website says the Micromedex entries should not be taken as medical advice and should be used only as an educational aid.
USA TODAY reached out to the blog’s author and the social media user who shared the post but did not immediately receive responses.
Our fact-check sources:
Kristyn Jacobson, Sept. 26, Email exchange with USA TODAY
Mayo Clinic, accessed Sept. 27, Drugs and Supplements
Internet Archive, May 22, 2020, Hydroxychloroquine (Oral Route)
Internet Archive, May 7, 2020, Hydroxychloroquine (Oral Route)
Internet Archive, Sept. 25, Hydroxychloroquine (Oral Route)
Mayo Clinic, Sept. 26, Is hydroxychloroquine a treatment for COVID-19?
Mayo Clinic, accessed Sept. 27, End user acknowledgment with regard to Merative, Micromedex information on this site
Food and Drug Administration, March 28, 2020, Letter to Dr. Rick Bright, Ph.D., U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Food and Drug Administration, July 1, 2020, FDA cautions against use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for COVID-19 outside of the hospital setting or a clinical trial due to risk of heart rhythm problems
IBM, accessed Sept. 27, IBM Watson Health is now Merative
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Post misrepresents Mayo Clinic hydroxychloroquine stance | Fact check