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WHO halts trial of hydroxychloroquine as coronavirus treatment

Christian Fernsby ▼ | May 26, 2020
The World Health Organization has said it is suspending trials on the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for the coronavirus.
World Health Organization
Trial   World Health Organization
The UN health body said its experts needed to review all available data before proceeding with tests on the anti-malarial drug that U.S. President Donald Trump has said he is taking.

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.

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.