The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Monday that it was delaying the chloroquine hydroxy experiment in treating COVID-19, saying concerns about the potential dangers of the drug caused the drug to be “cautiously mistaken.”
The drug, which is known to be used against malaria and autoimmune disorders, has been cited as a possible answer to COVID-19 by President Donald Trump.
But WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the evidence has shown harmful side effects of chloroquine hydroxy, including heart problems.
Tedros quotes The Lancet English Journal who published the findings on Friday, showed that hydroxychloroquine did not help COVID-19 patients and could even increase mortality.
“The executive group has implemented a temporary pause on the chloroquine hydroxy arm in the Solidarity Test while safety data is being reviewed by the data security monitoring board. Other arms of the trial are ongoing,” Tedros said at an online briefing from Geneva.
Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist, said investigators and regulators of the organization in each country had raised enough red flags about hydroxychloroquine to encourage this halt.
“So the steering committee met over the weekend and decided that in the light of this uncertainty, that we must be proactive, err on the side of caution, and suspend registration, for the time being, into the hydroxychloroquine arm,” he said.
WHO will take at least one more week, maybe two, to gather more data about hydroxychloroquine, Swaminathan said.
“We want to use hydroxychloroquine if it is safe, if it reduces mortality, reduces length of stay, without increasing side effects,” he added. “So this is a temporary measure.”
Tedros told patients who were taking medicine for its established use outside COVID-19 that they did not need to worry.
“This concern is related to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in COVID-19,” he said. “I want to reiterate that this drug is accepted because it is generally safe to use in patients with autoimmune diseases and malaria.”
When Trump started touting hydroxychloroquine in MarchThis drug causes a brief use of the drug, so some patients use it for lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases that cannot get treatment.
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