The World Health Organization has temporarily halted studying hydroxychloroquine as a potential Covid-19 treatment in its Solidarity Trial due to safety concerns, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a briefing in Geneva on Monday.
The decision was made after an observational study was published in the medical journal The Lancet on Friday, which described how seriously ill Covid-19 patients who were treated with hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were more likely to die.
Tedros said that an independent executive group is now reviewing the use of hydroxychloroquine in WHO's Solidarity Trial. The trial, which involves actively recruiting patients from more than 400 hospitals in 35 countries, is a global research effort to find safe and effective therapeutics for Covid-19.
"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."
Tedros added that the other arms of the trial are continuing.
"This concern relates to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in Covid-19," Tedros said. "I wish to reiterate that these drugs are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria."