The World Health Organisation (WHO) is temporarily suspending clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as an experimental coronavirus treatment amid mounting safety concerns. Surprising no one, it appears the antimalarial drug might not be the “miracle” covid-19 treatment that President Donald Trump has hyped it up to be.
Other potential treatments involved in the agency’s so-called solidarity trial, including the experimental drug remdesivir and various HIV medications, are still being studied, officials said Monday. However, testing for hydroxychloroquine has been halted pending a safety assessment in light of a recent study linking the drug to an increased risk of death and heart ailments among covid-19 patients.
“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,” WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said at a press conference per Bloomberg.
Soumya Swaminathan, the agency’s chief scientist, added that “it’s important to continue to gather evidence on the efficacy and safety of hydroxychloroquine” before pushing forward with testing.
“We want to use it if it’s safe and efficacious, reduces mortality, reduces the length of hospitalisation without increasing adverse events,” she said.
Though hydroxychloroquine is a safe and effective remedy for several ailments, including malaria, lupus, and arthritis, its potential effects on the novel coronavirus remain the subject of scientific study. But that hasn’t stopped Trump from repeatedly touting the unproven treatment as a “game-changer” in the fight against covid-19. You know, when he’s not busy floating at-home remedies like injecting bleach or blasting the virus with UV light. God knows how the man finds time to play golf amid shoveling all that bullshit.
Earlier this month, the president claimed he’s even begun taking hydroxychloroquine himself over the past few weeks as a preventative measure against the novel coronavirus.
“I think it’s good, I hear a lot of good stories. And if it’s not good, I’ll tell you right. I’m not going to get hurt by it,” he assured reporters at the time.
That’s not according to a study of 96,000 covid-19 patients that was published in the Lancet last week. Researchers found that the risk of death for those given any combination of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine (a similar antimalarial drug) increased on average by 35 per cent and their risk of developing a serious heart arrhythmia more than doubled. Other large-scale clinical trials in New York, France, and China also found that hydroxychloroquine is basically useless against fighting the virus.
One small-scale French study previously claimed to show the antimalarial drug was an effective treatment against the virus, but its publishers have since issued a statement saying this research failed to meet “scientific scrutiny and best practices.”
Federal guidance on the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s website appeared to briefly allude to these now-debunked findings when it was updated last month to include a statement about how hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have “in-vitro activity against SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2, and other coronaviruses.” A week later, the agency stripped this information along with several other paragraphs related to the drugs from the page. It now simply states that clinical trials for potential covid-19 treatments remain ongoing.
Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.