A university in Germany has reportedly suspended a clinical study using the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus after the World Health Organisation (WHO) decided to pause a large trial over safety concerns. While speaking to an international media outlet, Peter Kremsner, who is the Medical Director at the Tuebingen University Hospital, said that the researchers will probably interrupt the study for two weeks. Kremsner also informed that next month an assessment will be made on whether to continue the study.
As the governments around the world are scrambling to find ways to treat patients and control the novel virus, regulators in several countries had allowed the use of hydroxychloroquine and said that it could be used as a potential COVID-19 treatment. US President Donald Trump himself was particularly a strong supporter and even described the drug as a ‘game-changer’. However, several recent studies have reportedly raised safety issues.
Earlier this week, several European governments also moved to halt the use of the anti-malaria drug to treat COVID-19 patients. Countries including France, Italy and Belgium paused the large trial of hydroxychloroquine. A UK regulator also reportedly said that a separate trial was also being held, less than a week after it started.
As per several studies, coronavirus patients receiving hydroxychloroquine were more likely to die and experience dangerous irregular heartbeats. While Kremsner reportedly said that the researchers had no indications of side effects that might be associated with the drug, however, he added that the drug may in some cases have been used in patients where the risk of side effects was particularly high.
Meanwhile, WHO said that a safety panel would evaluate by mid-June the drug’s use in its multi-country trials of potential COVID-19 treatments. “A final decision on the harm, benefit or lack of benefit of hydroxychloroquine will be made once the evidence has been reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board,” WHO said in a statement.
The World Health Organisation (WHO)'s Executive Group, on Monday, decided to 'temporarily pause’ the Hydroxychlorine (HCQ) trial while the data collected so far is reviewed, announced WHO chief Dr Tedros in a press briefing. He added that the Executive Group's solidarity trial comprising of 10 countries will adequately evaluate the potential benefits and harms from this drug. Clarifying that the other arms of the trial were continuing, he added that the drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were generally safe for treating patients of autoimmune diseases or malaria.