By Analou De Vera and Agence France-Presse
GENEVA – The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday it had temporarily suspended clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The decision came after a study published in The Lancet medical journal last week suggested the drug could increase the risk of death among COVID-19 patients, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference.
Tedros said the executive group of the so-called Solidarity Trial, in which hundreds of hospitals across the world have enrolled patients to test several possible treatments for the novel coronavirus, had suspended trials using the drug as a precaution.
“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,” Tedros said.
“The other arms of the trial are continuing.”
Hydroxychloroquine is normally used to treat arthritis but public figures including US President Donald Trump have backed the drug as a virus treatment, prompting governments to bulk buy.
Trump said last week he was taking the drug as a preventative measure, but in an interview aired on Sunday on Sinclair Broadcasting he said he had completed his course.
“Finished, just finished,” Trump said. “And by the way, I’m still here. To the best of my knowledge, here I am.”
DOH pulls out
Following WHO’s advise, the Department of Health (DOH) said it will stop giving the anti-malaria drug (hydroxychloroquine) to COVID-19 patients in the country who are participating in the Solidarity Trial.
“We follow WHO guidelines on this because this is a WHO Solidarity trial,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing Tuesday.