Hydroxychloroquine: WHO pauses trial of drug Trump took as COVID-19 prevention amid safety concerns
LONDON: More than 40,000 healthcare workers from across the world are reportedly taking part in a global trial of two anti-malarial drugs – hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine – to check their effectiveness in preventing the COVID-19 infection, with the first tests having begun in the UK cities of Brighton and Oxford.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is putting its coronavirus treatment trial of hydroxychloroquine on pause to review its benefits and harmful effects, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday.
“The executive group of the Solidarity Trial representing ten of the participating countries met on Saturday and has agreed to review a comprehensive analysis and critical appraisal of all evidence available globally. The review will consider data collected so far in the Solidarity Trial and, in particular robust randomised available data, to adequately evaluate the potential benefits and harms from this drug”, Tedros told a press conference.
According to the director-general, the data is being reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board.
“The other arms of the trial are continuing”, the WHO chief said.
The statement comes after the Bangkok-based Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) said in a press release on 21 May that it has started a research project dubbed COPCOV in cooperation with the University of Oxford and the Wellcome charity organisation. The research involves 40,000 frontline health workers and staff from Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America who have close contact with coronavirus-infected patients to determine definitively if chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are effective in preventing COVID-19.
Hydroxychloroquine has been considered effective in treating COVID-19 when combined with zinc and azithromycin by some of the world’s leading epidemiologists. At the same time, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned of the danger of side effects of these antimalarial drugs when treating the disease.
In the meantime, Executive Director of the World Health Organisation’s Health Emergencies Programme Michael J. Ryan said that the world may experience a second peak of the current COVID-19 wave.
“We need to be also cognisant of the fact that the disease can jump up at any time. We cannot make assumptions that just because the disease is on the way down now that it’s going to keep going down and we’re going to get a number of months to get ready for a second wave. We may get a second peak in this wave”, Ryan told a press conference.
The World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on 11 March. To date, more than 5.4 million people have been infected with the coronavirus worldwide, with over 345,000 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University.