Coronavirus: WHO suspends clinical trials with hydroxychloroquine for safety

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The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Monday that it had “temporarily” suspended clinical trials with hydroxychloroquine which it is carrying out with its partners in several countries, as a precautionary measure.

This decision follows the publication of a study on Friday in the medical journal The Lancet deeming ineffective or even harmful the use of chloroquine or its derivatives like hydroxychloroquine against Covid-19, said the director general of the WHO , Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, during a virtual press conference, specifying that the suspension had been decided on Saturday.

WHO launched clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine, called “Solidarity”, more than two months ago, with the aim of finding an effective treatment for Covid-19. Currently, “more than 400 hospitals in 35 countries are actively recruiting patients and nearly 3,500 patients have been recruited in 17 countries”, explained the boss of the WHO. However, according to the large study published in The Lancet, neither chloroquine nor its derivative hydroxychloroquine prove effective against Covid-19 in hospitalized patients, and these molecules even increase the risk of death and cardiac arrhythmia.

“This is a temporary measure”

The study analyzed data from approximately 96,000 SARS-CoV-2 infected patients admitted to 671 hospitals between December 20, 2019 and April 14, 2020, discharged or deceased since. About 15,000 of them received one of the four combinations (chloroquine alone or combined with the antibiotic, hydroxychloroquine alone or combined with the same antibiotic), then these four groups were compared to the 81,000 patients in the control group who did not not received this treatment.

WHO and partner trials on hydroxychloroquine will be suspended until “the data” collected by Solidarity tests “be examined”, said Tedros. “This is a temporary measure”, said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, in charge of the Scientific Department at WHO.

Hydroxychloroquine is a derivative of chloroquine, prescribed for several decades against malaria. Known in France as Plaquénil, hydroxychloroquine is prescribed against lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Donald Trump takes it himself daily

Hydroxychloroquine has known unprecedented fame since the end of February since French professor Didier Raoult made public several studies, which according to him show an effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine associated with an antibiotic, azithromycin.

The excitement around hydroxychloroquine gained momentum when US President Donald Trump made himself its apostle, to the point of taking it daily as a preventive measure. In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro is convinced of its effects, to the point that the Ministry of Health has recommended its use for all mildly affected patients.

Monday, the head of WHO wanted to recall that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine “are recognized as generally safe for patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria”.

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