At the end of March 2020, after relying on an earlier Chinese study of a few weeks, Professor Didier Raoult presented, in turn, the results of his clinical trial concerning hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of COVID-19. Riddled with methodological biases and quickly decried by the scientific community, these results were invalidated by various later studies which showed, at best, ineffective treatment and, at worst, life-threatening side effects. On the basis of these different studies, the culmination of which was a large-scale study published in the journal The Lancet a few days ago, the WHO made the decision to suspend all clinical trials involving hydroxychloroquine as part of its Solidarity Trial.
The World Health Organization announced Monday that it has temporarily suspended clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a potential treatment for COVID-19, which are being carried out as a preventive measure in various countries. The move came after a study in The Lancet last week said that using the drug on patients could increase their risk of dying, says WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Tedros said that the executive group of the Solidarity Test, in which hundreds of hospitals in several countries recruited patients to test several possible treatments for the new coronavirus, had precautionarily suspended the trials using this drug. “ The executive group has set up a temporary pause in the HCQ part as part of the solidarity test while the safety data are examined by the Data Safety Monitoring Board. The rest of the test continues. “
Ineffective, even dangerous treatment for patients: the Lancet’s conclusions
Hydroxychloroquine is normally used to treat certain autoimmune diseases, but statements by figures such as President Donald Trump – who announced last week that he is taking the drug – have prompted governments to buy it in bulk. The Brazilian Minister of Health also recommended last week to use hydroxychloroquine, along with the antimalarial chloroquine, to treat even mild cases of COVID-19.
The study of The Lancet found that the two drugs may produce potentially serious side effects, especially cardiac arrhythmia. And no drug has benefited inpatients with COVID-19, according to another study also published in The Lancet , which examined the records of 96,000 patients in hundreds of hospitals.
The need for governments to maintain heightened vigilance
As many countries begin to gradually lift restrictions, WHO stressed on Monday the need to follow physical distancing measures and step up efforts to test and detect cases of infection. ” All countries must remain on alert, ” said WHO expert Maria Van Kerkhove, stressing that even countries that have experienced a decline in the number of cases must remain prepared.
Ryan also confirmed this, urging countries to ” continue to put in place a comprehensive strategy to ensure that we continue on a downward path and that we do not have an immediate second peak .” He objects to the idea that the pandemic could move in natural seasonal waves, stressing that the reasons why transmission is decreasing in a number of countries are the drastic measures put in place.
Tedros said Monday that the two drugs ” are accepted as generally safe for patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria “.
WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan says the WHO-supported solidarity trial only looked at the effects of hydroxychloroquine, not chloroquine. The decision to suspend registration for trials using hydroxychloroquine was a temporary measure. ” We are just acting as a precaution, ” says WHO emergency chief Michael Ryan.