The World Health Organization said it would temporarily halt a study of hydroxychloroquine as a potential coronavirus treatment due to safety concerns, CNN reports.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday that an independent panel would review the use of the anti-malarial drug that has been widely touted by President Donald Trump and Fox News.
The WHO had been running a trial recruiting patients at 400 different hospitals in 35 countries to test the efficacy of the drug, which is sometimes also used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
"The Executive Group of the Solidarity Trial, representing 10 of the participating countries, met on Saturday and has agreed to review a comprehensive analysis and critical appraisal of all evidence available globally," Tedros said on Monday.
"The review will consider data collected so far in the Solidarity Trial and, in particular robust randomized available data, to adequately evaluate the potential benefits and harms from this drug," Tedros said. "The Executive Group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity Trial while the data is reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board."
"This concern relates to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in Covid-19," he added. "I wish to reiterate that these drugs are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria."
Study found higher risk of death:
The WHO decision came after a study published in The Lancet showed the drug could increase risk of death.
The study compared about 15,000 patients given hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with about 81,000 patients who were not given the drug.
People who received the drug had a higher mortality rate and a higher risk of developing heart problems.
The study, conducted by researchers from Harvard, the University Hospital of Zurich, and the University of Utah, found “no evidence” that the drugs were helpful.
Trump stops taking hydroxychloroquine:
President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he has completed a two-week course of hydroxychloroquine.
“Finished, just finished,” he said in an interview. “And by the way, I’m still here.”
“I've heard tremendous reports about it. Frankly, I've heard tremendous reports. Many people think it saved their lives. Doctors come out with reports. You had a study in France, you had a study in Italy that were incredible studies,” Trump said, failing to note that no American study has found any benefits.
“I believe in it enough that I took a program because I had two people in the White House that tested positive,” he said. “I figured maybe it's a good thing to take a program."