GENEVA: The World Health Organisation has announced that it was temporarily suspending clinical trials of the hydroxychloroquine drug as a possible cure for the novel COVID-19, after a study warned that the drug can increase the threat of death among patients of the disease.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a virtual press conference, said the executive group of the so-called Solidarity Trial, in which 100 of hospitals across the globe have enrolled patients to test numerous possible treatments for the COVID-19, had suspended trials using hydroxychloroquine as a precaution.
Earlier, a study published in The Lancet medical journal recommended the hydroxychloroquine could raise the threat of death among coronavirus patients, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
The Lancet study found the hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine could produce potentially severe side effects, mostly heart arrhythmia.
And neither the drugs helped patients hospitalised with coronavirus, according to the study, which looked at the records of 96,000 patients across hundreds of hospitals.
Tedros said the drugs were generally safe for patients with the diseases or malaria. Tedros further said “The Executive Group has implemented a temporary break of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity Trial while the safety data is appraised by the Data Safety Monitoring Board, he added.”
WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan also said that the Solidarity Trial had been looking only at the effects of hydroxychloroquine and not chloroquine. The decision to suspend enrollment for trials using hydroxychloroquine was a temporary measure, she added.
Hydroxychloroquine is normally used to treat arthritis but public figures including US President Donald Trump have backed the drug as a COVID-19 treatment, prompting governments to bulk buy.
Trump said last week he was taking the drug as a precautionary step, however, in an interview aired 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.”
Brazil´s health minister also recommended last week using hydroxychloroquine, as well as the anti-malarial chloroquine, to treat even mild COVID-19 cases.
The coronavirus outbreak, which began late last year in China, has killed nearly 350,000 people globally and infected almost 5.5 million.
The United States has the highest death toll with 98,706 followed by Britain with 36,675, and Italy with 32,735. Over 2.27 million people so far have recovered from the infection.
The coronavirus plague continues to wreck across the world and only an effective vaccine will end all chaos. Scientists are scrambling to find a cure by sharing research and overcoming obstacles others may be facing.
There are more than 100 research groups pursuing vaccines with nearly a dozen in advanced stages of human trials or poised to start soon.