WHO Halts Hydroxychloroquine COVID-19 Trials Citing Safety Concerns

The WHO placed a temporary halt on tests of the controversial COVID-19 treatment hydroxychloroquine on Monday, citing safety concerns described in a study spanning six continents.
Brad Bergan

The World Health Organization put a temporary halt on tests of the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential coronavirus treatment to review growing safety concerns, said the agency's Director-General Adhanom Ghebreyesu in the opening remarks of a Monday briefing.


WHO halts hydroxychloroquine trials as COVID-19 treatment

This decision came shortly after a review on the effects of hydroxychloroquine was published in the journal The Lancet, which found that COVID-19 patients who used the drug were more likely to perish or develop irregular heart rhythm that increases a patient's chances of having a sudden cardiac arrest — in contrast to coronavirus patients who did nothing to treat their illness.

The medical journal's study examined 96,000 hospitalized patients confirmed infected with the coronavirus across six continents. This was the most extensive analysis of medical records on the drug yet, which happened between December 20, 2019, and April 14, 2020, reports Axios.

UPDATE May 25, 1:50 PM: Director-General reconsiders drug, despite US President Trump's interest in it

Director-General of the WHO Dr. Tedros said about the decision that an independent executive panel "agreed to review a comprehensive analysis and critical appraisal of all evidence available globally" on hydroxychloroquine to consider whether the drug should see continued use in WHO's Solidarity Trial, a worldwide effort to test new experimental treatments to the coronavirus illness.

"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. I wish to reiterate that these drugs are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune disease diseases or malaria," said Dr. Tedros in his briefing.

This contrasts with U.S. President Trump's opinion, who has praised the drug as a "game-changer" and last week admitted he had been taking it as a preventative measure against contracting the COVID-19 coronavirus after reportedly consulting with the White House doctor.

His abrupt announcement came despite warnings from the FDA that the unproven drug should only be administered in hospitals, citing the associated risks of heart complications.

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