The controversial anti-malaria drug was one of four experimental treatments being investigated by the organization.
The World Health Organization announced Monday that it is pausing clinical trials using the controversial malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, to treat patients with coronavirus over published concerns that the drug may do more harm than good.
This comes after the medical journal The Lancet reported that patients getting hydroxychloroquine were dying at higher rates than other coronavirus patients. The Lancet on On May 22, looked at over 96,000 patients with COVID-19 and almost 15,000 patients in the cohort had received chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine. The study found that those taking the drug were more likely to die in hospital and suffered heart problems.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “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,”
He added “The review will consider data collected so far in the Solidarity Trial and in particular robust, randomized available data to adequately evaluate the potential benefits and harms from this drug [hydroxycholoroquine],”
The Solidarity Trial is the WHO’s global investigation into four experimental treatments for COVID-19 which includes remdesivir, lopinavir, interferon beta-1a, and hydroxychloroquine. WHO director-general confirmed investigations into the other treatments are continuing and notes hydroxychloroquine is “accepted as generally safe in patients with autoimmune diseases and malaria.”
Gaetan Burgio, a geneticist at the Australian National University says “The decision to temporally halt the Solidarity trial for Hydroxychloroquine and to review the safety data in patients that underwent this trial is expected and logical. This will enable the researchers to determine whether it is safe to continue this very large clinical trial on 3,500 patients.”
The WHO’s chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan says they expect to decide whether to resume testing hydroxychloroquine in the Solidarity Trial in a week or two.