The United Nations health agency has said that the use of hydroxychloroquine – a drug once actively endorsed by the US President Donald Trump as a treatment against Covid-19 – should be discontinued, because it has little to no effect on halting the disease’s progression.
The decision was taken after the preliminary results of clinical trials conducted as part of the Solidarity Initiative – a WHO-backed international program aimed at tackling the Covid-19 pandemic – were received.
The same study also showed that lopinavir/ritonavir – the two drugs normally used in anti-HIV therapy, and also touted as a potential cure against Covid-19 – are similarly ineffective.
“Interim trial results show that hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir produce little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalized COVID-19 patients when compared to standard of care. Solidarity trial investigators will interrupt the trials with immediate effect,” the organization said in a statement.
WHO accepted the recommendation from the Solidarity Trial’s International Steering Committee to discontinue the trial’s hydroxychloroquine and the lopinavir/ritonavir arms.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) July 4, 2020
It noted, however, that the aforementioned results have not yet been peer-reviewed, and its recommendations do not affect any potential use of the drugs in non-hospitalized patients or as a prophylaxis – Trump’s own use of hydroxychloroquine.
The WHO had already halted its trials of hydroxychloroquine, citing “safety concerns,” after a prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet, published a study on the side-effects of the drug, which included a higher mortality rate among Covid-19 patients.
The move prompted many nations – among them, France, Italy, and Belgium – to ban the use of the drug in the treatment of coronavirus. Others, such as Spain or Russia, declined to do so.
Eventually, the WHO resumed the trials, this time citing doubts over the side-effects research itself. Its current position is that “the interim results do not provide solid evidence of increased mortality.”