The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced it will be resuming clinical trials of the controversial anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to evaluate whether it can be used to prevent and treat COVID-19. This comes after the WHO in May suspended trials after a study published in a prominent medical journal suggested that the drug could increase the risk of death among patients suffering from the novel coronavirus.
After assessing the data available on the drug, the WHO’s Data Safety Monitoring Board found that there was no reason to discontinue trials, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press conference on Wednesday. The potential of HCQ as a cure for COVID-19 was being studied as part of a larger ‘Solidarity Trial’ — in which a number of possible treatments are being looked at by scientists and researchers across the world.
Based on available data, the #COVID19 Solidarity Trial Data Safety & Monitoring Committee recommended there are no reasons to modify the trial protocol. The Executive Group endorsed the continuation of all arms of the Trial, including the use of hydroxychloroquine. https://t.co/r88DVEvZ3j pic.twitter.com/cYITShxcE7
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) June 3, 2020
“The Executive Group received this recommendation and endorsed continuation of all arms of the solidarity trial, including hydroxychloroquine,” Ghebreyesus said, adding that the WHO’s safety board will continue to closely monitor the safety of all therapeutics being tested in the solidarity trial.
On May 25, the WHO announced that it was temporarily halting the clinical trial to conduct a safety review after a study published in the Lancet Medical Journal stated that the anti-malaria drug was associated with higher mortality rates and an increased risk of heart conditions in COVID-19 patients, the Guardian reported.
Several world leaders, including US President Donald Trump and Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, have promoted the use of HCQ as a possible treatment for COVID-19, despite warnings from health experts. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota found that the drug was ineffective in preventing infection in people exposed to COVID-19, Reuters reported today.
HCQ, which is also used for the treatment of autoimmune disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, is known to have serious side effects such as muscle weakness and heart arrhythmia.
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