The World Health Organization says it is temporarily halting its clinical trials that use hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients over published concerns that the drug may do more harm than good.
The move comes after the medical journal The Lancet reported on Friday that patients getting hydroxychloroquine were dying at higher rates than other coronavirus patients.
“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,” WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday. “The other arms of the trial are continuing”.
He said the concern related only to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for Covid-19, adding that the drugs were accepted treatments for people with malaria and auto-immune diseases.
Other treatments in the WHO’s solidarity trial, including the experimental drug remdesivir and an HIV combination therapy, are still being pursued.
Hydroxychloroquine has been licensed for use in the US since the mid-1950s and is listed by the WHO as an essential medicine.
US President Trump has advocated for the use of hydroxychloroquine during the pandemic despite limited research into whether it is effective against the virus.
The president has said he’s been taking hydroxychloroquine to protect against the virus. The trials being put on hold by the WHO are investigating its use as a treatment for patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19, not as a drug to prevent the disease.