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WHO suspends trials of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19

26 May 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that it has temporarily suspended clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19 being carried out across a range of countries as a precautionary measure. 

The decision came after publication of a study in The Lancet last week, which indicated that using the drug on COVID-19 patients indicate a higher mortality rate, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference. 

Ghebreyesus said that the executive group of the so-called Solidarity Trial, in which 400 hospitals in 35 countries are actively recruiting patients and nearly 3,500 patients have been enrolled from 17 countries, to test several possible treatments for the novel coronavirus, had as a precaution suspended trials using that 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,” he said, adding, “The other arms of the trial are continuing.” 

The Lancet study found that both drugs can produce potentially serious side effects, particularly heart arrhythmia. And neither drug benefitted patients hospitalised with COVID-19, according to the study, which looked at the records of 96,000 patients across hundreds of hospitals. 

The WHO DG said that that the two drugs “are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria.” 

Oman’s Ministry of Health had procured one million hydroxychloroquine pills from India in April.

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