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WHO suspends hydroxychloroquine trials over safety concerns

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  • It’s tough to go to work every day wondering if you’ll still have a job in a few months—but your managers might not have answers either.

The World Health Organization says it is temporarily halting its clinical trials that use hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients over published concerns that the drug may do more harm than good.

The move comes after the medical journal The Lancet reported on Friday May 22 that patients getting hydroxychloroquine were dying at higher rates than other coronavirus patients.

President Donald Trump has said he has taken the drug to ward off the virus.

The US president has repeatedly promoted the anti-malarial drug, against medical advice and despite warnings from public health officials that it could cause heart problems.

WHO has 3,500 patients from 17 countries enrolled in what it calls the Solidarity Trial. This is an effort overseen by the WHO to find new treatments for COVID-19.

“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 hydroxychloroquine.”

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during an online press conference from Geneva on Monday.

The patients in the trial have been randomly assigned to be treated with hydroxychloroquine which is a common malaria drug, or 3 other experimental drugs for treating COVID-19 in various combinations. Only the hydroxychloroquine part of the trial is being put on hold.

The Lancet study involved 96,000 coronavirus patients, nearly 15,000 of whom were given hydroxychloroquine – or a related form chloroquine – either alone or with an antibiotic.

The study found that the patients were more likely to die in the hospital and develop heart rhythm complications than other Covid patients in a comparison group.

The death rates of the treated groups were: hydroxychloroquine 18%; chloroquine 16.4%; control group 9%. Those treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine in combination with antibiotics had an even higher death rate.

The researchers warned that hydroxychloroquine should not be used outside of clinical trials.

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