WHO suspends tests of anti-malarial drug

Tests of hydroxychloroquine on Covid-19 patients have been temporary suspended following a recent report that the anti-malarial drug could increase the mortality in coronavirus patients, the World Health Organisation announced on Monday. The tests were part of the WHO-led international Solidarity Trial, which aims to find out if existing medications that were developed against malaria, HIV, Ebola and multiple sclerosis could help to treat the Covid-19 coronavirus disease.

Last week, US and Swiss scientists reported in The Lancet journal that hydroxychloroquine and the similar drug chloroquine could lead to higher death rates and heart palpitations. The medications have not been shown to be effective against Covid-19, they believe.

A decision has been taken to implement "a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity Trial while the safety data is reviewed," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing from Geneva. Tedros stressed that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are safe for treating patients with malaria and certain autoimmune diseases.

So far, 3,500 patients from 17 countries have been enrolled in tests that are being carried out under the umbrella of the Solidarity Trial. US President Donald Trump has made headlines for promoting and taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive drug against Covid-19, but he said last Wednesday that he would soon stop using it.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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