The World Health Organization said Monday it had temporarily suspended clinical trials of hydroxychloriquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19 being carried out across a range of countries as a precautionary measure.
The drug trial was suspended on grounds of safety concern following a report published by Lancet, which revealed that more people are dying from the use of hydroxychloroquine to combat COVID-19.
WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who made the announcement during an online briefing, added that other aspects of the WHO solidarity trial would continue.
“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 has 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.
“The other arms of the trial are continuing. This concern relates to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloraquine in COVID-19.
“I wish to reiterate that these drugs are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria. WHO will provide further updates as we know more. And we will continue to work night and day for solutions, science and solidarity.”
Over 400 hospitals in 35 countries are actively recruiting patients and nearly 3500 patients have been enrolled for trials in 17 countries. At the moment, five states in the country – Lagos, FCT, Ogun, Kaduna, Sokoto and Kano have signed up to participate in the WHO’s solidarity trial to help find an effective treatment for COVID-19.