COVID-19: WHO ceases the trial of anti-malarial drug over safety reasons

As per the study published in The Lancet, both the drugs, hydroxychloroquine, and anti-malarial chloroquine, can potentially produce serious side effects in the patients of COVID-19, particularly heart arrhythmia.

 

May 26, 2020 12:47 IST
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World Health Organisation (WHO) on May 25 announced that the clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine for  COVID-19 treatment has been temporarily suspended due to safety reasons.

Range of countries across the world had been pursuing these clinical trials. The decision for the suspension of trial came after a study was published in The Lancet which indicated that the use of drugs on COVID-19 patients can be harmful and increase the chances of death.

WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a virtual press conference stated that the solidarity trial under which hospitals in different countries had enrolled patients for testing the possible treatment of COVID-19, has suspended the trial using the drug.

What do the Lancet Study states?

As per the study published in The Lancet, both the drugs, hydroxychloroquine, and anti-malarial chloroquine, can potentially produce serious side effects in the patients of COVID-19, particularly heart arrhythmia.

The study also states that neither of the drugs has benefitted the patients who have been hospitalized with COVID-19. The study observed the records of 96,000 patients across hundreds of hospitals.

Decision of suspending the trial by WHO:

WHO chief informed that the executive group of Solidarity trial has temporarily paused the trial of hydroxychloroquine arm while the safety data is being reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board. He further mentioned that the other arms of the trial are being continued. During his virtual press conference on May 25, the WHO chief stressed that the two drugs have been accepted as generally safe for the use in patients with malaria or autoimmune diseases.

Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist, mentioned in the briefing that the Solidarity Trial backed by WHO has been looking only at the effects of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. She added that the decision of suspending the trials using hydroxychloroquine was a temporary measure and WHO is just acting by precaution.

Hydroxychloroquine has been normally used for the treatment of arthritis but the support to the drug from the public figures that includes President Donald Trump- who announced that he has been taking the drug- prompted various governments to buy the medicine in bulk.

Brazil’s Health Minister had also recommended the use of hydroxychloroquine as well as the anti-malarial chloroquine for the treatment of even mild COVID-19.

Efforts must be continued to combat the virus:

As there is still no approved drug or vaccine for COVID-19 treatment, measures taken by countries all over the world have pushed down the transmission rates.

WHO in the virtual press conference emphasized that as nations have begun to lift restrictions, it is essential to continue with the social distancing measures as well as to scale up the efforts to test and to detect the cases of COVID-19.

WHO expert Maria Van Kerkhove advised that the countries must remain on high alert, even those who have seen a decline in COVID-19 cases must remain ready. She further warned that the antibody tests that determined how many people have been infected and how many might have some level of immunity clearly indicate that a large number of the population still remains susceptible. She added that the virus will take an opportunity to amplify if it can.

WHO Emergencies Chief, Michael Ryan agreed and urged the countries for a comprehensive strategy that will ensure that we continue on a downward trajectory and don’t have to face a second peak.

He also warned against the idea that the pandemic might move in natural seasonal waves and stressed that the transmission has been going down because of the drastic measures that were put in place. It must not be assumed that the current rapid infections represent natural seasonality.

He further added that it is dangerous to assume that currently it is on a downward trajectory and the next danger point will come in October or November. 

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