COVID-19: WHO Suspends Hydrochloroquine Treatment Trials On Safety Concerns

A few weeks into solidarity trial of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has suspended the process.

It hinged its decision to temporarily halt the test trial of the drug on safety concerns.

This is based on a report published by Lancet, which indicated that more people are dying from the use of the drug to combat the pandemic.

Announcing the decision in an online briefing on Monday, WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “As you know, more than two months ago, we initiated the Solidarity Trial, to evaluate the safety and efficacy of four drugs and drug combinations against COVID-19.

“On Friday, the Lancet published an observational study on hydroxycholoroquine and chloraquine 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.

“The Executive Group of the Solidarity Trial, representing 10 of the participating countries, met on Saturday and agreed to review a comprehensive analysis and critical appraisal of all evidence available globally.

“The review will consider data collected so far in the Solidarity Trial and, in particular, robust randomised available data, to adequately evaluate the potential benefits and harms from this drug.

“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.”

Hydroxycholoroquine has been touted by United States President Donald Trump and others as a possible treatment for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The U.S. President has said he was taking the drug to help prevent infection.

Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO emergencies programme, said the decision to suspend trials of hydroxychloroquine had been taken out of “an abundance of caution”.

Over 400 hospitals in 35 countries are actively recruiting patients and nearly 3,500 patients have been enrolled from 17 countries.

Meanwhile, five states – Lagos, Ogun, Kaduna, Sokoto, Kano and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) –  have signed up to participate in the WHO’s solidarity trial to help find an effective treatment for COVID-19.

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