Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

WHO Suspends Trial of Trump-Touted COVID-19 Treatment Hydroxychloroquine Due to Safety Concerns

Health + Wellness
WHO Suspends Trial of Trump-Touted COVID-19 Treatment Hydroxychloroquine Due to Safety Concerns
A pharmacy tech pours out pills of hydroxychloroquine at Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, on May 20, 2020. GEORGE FREY / AFP via Getty Images

Citing safety concerns, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday it was suspending its trial of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug that has been championed by President Donald Trump as a treatment for the new coronavirus.


The WHO decision followed the release of a Lancet study Friday that found that COVID-19 patients who took the drug were more likely to die or develop heart problems.

"The steering committee met over the weekend, in the light of this uncertainty," WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told NPR. "We decided we should be proactive, err on the side of caution and suspend enrollment temporarily into the hydroxychloroquine arm [of the Solidarity trial]."

The WHO Solidarity Trial is an effort to test the effectiveness of potential COVID-19 treatments, including hydroxychloroquine, remdesivir and an HIV combination therapy, The Guardian reported. It involves 3,500 patients from 17 countries randomly assigned one of four experimental treatments, according to NPR.

Unlike the WHO trial, the Lancet study was based on observation rather than a controlled experiment. However, the number of people in the study — 96,000 — raised concerns, Swaminathan explained to NPR.

Of the 96,000 in the Lancet study, nearly 15,000 were given hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, with or without an antibiotic, BBC News reported. The death rate for patients treated with hydroxychloroquine was double the control, at 18 percent compared to nine percent. The death rate for patients treated with chloroquine was 16.4 percent.

In light of these findings, the Executive Group of the Solidarity Trial met Saturday and agreed to a temporary pause of WHO's hydroxychloroquine trial, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters Monday.

"The review will consider data collected so far in the Solidarity Trial and, in particular robust randomised available data, to adequately evaluate the potential benefits and harms from this drug," he said.

Swaminathan told NPR that WHO would decide whether to resume the hydroxychloroquine tests in a week or two.

In the meantime, Tedros said the other arms of the Solidarity Trial were continuing, and that concerns about hydroxychloroquine were limited to its use as a COVID-19 treatment.

"I wish to reiterate that these drugs are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria," he said.

The news came the day after Trump claimed to have "just finished" a course of hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure against the new coronavirus in an interview aired on Sinclair Broadcasting, as CNBC reported.

"And by the way, I'm still here," he said.

Trump first began to promote the use of hydroxychloroquine against the new coronavirus in March, but the Lancet study is not the first to question its safety as a treatment for the new disease.

Studies published in April found that hydroxychloroquine taken with the antibiotic azithromycin could increase the risk of heart failure, and that U.S. Veterans Health Administration patients treated with hydroxychloroquine had higher death rates than those who were not.

The WHO trial itself had not produced any data showing increased risk from hydroxychloroquine before it was suspended, Swaminathan told NPR.

The White House declined to comment to CNBC on WHO's decision to suspend the trial, and the Department of Health and Human Services did not respond in time.

Ningaloo Reef near Exmouth on April 2, 2012 in Western Australia. James D. Morgan / Getty Images News

By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge

In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A 3-hour special film by EarthxTV calls for protection of the Amazon and its indigenous populations. EarthxTV.org

To save the planet, we must save the Amazon rainforest. To save the rainforest, we must save its indigenous peoples. And to do that, we must demarcate their land.

Read More Show Less

Trending

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivers a video speech at the high-level meeting of the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland on Feb. 22, 2021. Xinhua / Zhang Cheng via Getty Images

By Anke Rasper

"Today's interim report from the UNFCCC is a red alert for our planet," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The report, released Friday, looks at the national climate efforts of 75 states that have already submitted their updated "nationally determined contributions," or NDCs. The countries included in the report are responsible for about 30% of the world's global greenhouse gas emissions.

Read More Show Less
New Delhi's smog is particularly thick, increasing the risk of vehicle accidents. SAJJAD HUSSAIN / AFP via Getty Images

India's New Delhi has been called the "world air pollution capital" for its high concentrations of particulate matter that make it harder for its residents to breathe and see. But one thing has puzzled scientists, according to The Guardian. Why does New Delhi see more blinding smogs than other polluted Asian cities, such as Beijing?

Read More Show Less
A bridge over the Delaware river connects New Hope, Pennsylvania with Lambertville, New Jersey. Richard T. Nowitz / Getty Images

In a historic move, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) voted Thursday to ban hydraulic fracking in the region. The ban was supported by all four basin states — New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York — putting a permanent end to hydraulic fracking for natural gas along the 13,539-square-mile basin, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Read More Show Less