The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is temporarily suspending its clinical use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients over expressed concerns that the drug may do more harm than good. The move comes after the medical journal, The Lancet reported on Friday, May 22 that patients getting hydroxychloroquine were dying at higher rates than other coronavirus patients.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday:
“As part of our continued response to the pandemic globally, WHO continues to work aggressively on research and development. As you know, more than two months ago we initiated the Solidarity Trial, to evaluate the safety and efficacy of four drugs and drug combinations against COVID-19.
“Over 400 hospitals in 35 countries are actively recruiting patients and nearly 3500 patients have been enrolled from 17 countries. On Friday, the Lancet published an observational study on hydroxycholoroquine and chloroquine and its effects on COVID-19 patients that have been hospitalised.
“The authors reported that among patients receiving the drug, when used alone or with a macrolide, they estimated a higher mortality rate. The Executive Group of the Solidarity Trial, representing 10 of the participating countries, met on Saturday and has agreed to review a comprehensive analysis and critical appraisal of all evidence available globally.
“The review will consider data collected so far in the Solidarity Trial and in particular robust randomised available data, to adequately evaluate the potential benefits and harms from this drug. The Executive Group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity Trial while the safety data is reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board.
“The other arms of the trial are continuing. This concern relates to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in COVID-19.”