A clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine as a means of treatment for COVID-19 has been temporarily suspended by the World Health Organization, WHO. The move by WHO followed new data suggesting that the drugs increase mortality among patients.
The Director-General of the UN health agency, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, in a virtual press conference on Monday, May 25, said that patients who took chloroquine, which hydroxychloroquine is derived from, were also more likely to develop irregular heart rhythms.
Dr Ghebreyesus said the suspension became necessary in order to evaluate the safety data on the drugs as presented to WHO by the Data Safety Monitoring Board. The DG also said the executive group of the Solidarity Trial, in which hundreds of hospitals across several countries have enrolled patients to test several possible treatments for the virus, had as a precaution, suspended trials using that drug.
He said the decision only applies to the use of the hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in COVID-19 patients, so therefore other arms of the trial are continuing. “I wish to reiterate that these drugs are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria, ” he said.