A clinical trial of antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine in Covid-19 patients has been halted over safety concerns, the World Health Organization announced yesterday.
The move comes after data from a study published in The Lancet revealed a higher mortality rate in Covid-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine.
In a media briefing, WHO director-general Dr 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.’
The WHO’s solidarity trial was launched to assess the safety and efficacy of four treatment options against Covid-19, including hydroxychloroquine.
Last week, the study in The Lancet analysed data from nearly 15,000 patients with Covid-19 who received the drug alone or in combination with antibiotics, against a control group of 81,000 who did not receive it.
It found a higher risk of abnormal heartbeats, or arrhythmias, and mortality in patients with Covid-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine.
Dr Tedros continued: ‘On Friday, the Lancet published an observational study on hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine and its effects on Covid-19 patients that have been hospitalised.
‘The authors reported that among patients receiving the drug, when used alone or with a macrolide, they estimated a higher mortality rate.’
Hydroxychloroquine was developed as an antimalarial drug but is also used to treat conditions like lupus and arthritis.
Donald Trump has said he has been taken hydroxychloroquine, following public hype about it as a potential coronavirus treatment.
Other studies published this month also suggested that hydroxychloroquine has no effect on the survival rate of Covid-19 patients and might even increase the risk of adverse effects.
Another recent study found that renin-angiotensin aldosterone system inhibitors – taken by some patients with hypertension – do not impact the severity of Covid-19.
Mounting evidence has also indicated that men and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people are disproportionately affected by Covid-19.