The World Health Organisation said Monday that it will temporarily drop hydroxychloroquine—the malaria drug US President Trump says he is taking—from its global study into experimental COVID-19 treatments, saying that its experts need to review all available evidence to date.
In a press briefing, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that in light of a paper published last week in the Lancet that showed people taking hydroxychloroquine were at higher risk of death and heart problems, there would be a temporary pause on the hydroxychloroquine arm of its global clinical trial.
This concern relates to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in COVID-19, Tedros said, adding that the drugs are approved treatments for people with malaria or autoimmune diseases. Other treatments in the trial, including the experimental drug remdesivir and an HIV combination therapy, are still being tested.
Tedros said the executive group behind WHO’s global Solidarity trial met on Saturday and decided to conduct a comprehensive review of all available data on hydroxychloroquine and that its use in the trial would be suspended for now.
It is only on anecdotal evidence that doctors are using HCQ along with other antiviral medication (used in HIV and other viral infections) as empiric therapy to treat COVID-19 patients as there is no definite treatment available yet, said M.C. Misra, former director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi and one of India’s top surgeons.
However, there have been reports of some patients developing cardiac arrhythmias due to hydroxychloroquine which can cause sudden cardiac death,Misra told sources.
Citing a research from France in which one half of COVID-19 patients was administered hydroxychloroquine while the other half was not, Misra said the recovery and outcomes of the two groups were same.
Dr Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergencies chief, said there was no indication of any safety problems with hydroxychloroquine in the WHO trial to date, but that statisticians would now analyze the information.
We’re just acting on an abundance of caution based on the recent results of all the studies to to ensure that we can continue safely with that arm of the trial, he said. WHO said it expected to have more details within the next two weeks.