WHO recommends hydroxychloroquine only be used in controlled trials

A top World Health Organization (WHO) official said Wednesday that it remains unclear whether hydroxychloroquine, which President Trump has said he is taking, is effective in treating or preventing the novel coronavirus and stressed that the anti-malaria drug should only be administered in clinical trials. 

“Every sovereign nation, particularly those with effective regulatory authorities, is in a position to advise its own citizens regarding the use of any drug,” Michael Ryan said Wednesday, just days after Trump said that he was taking hydroxychloroquine prophylactically, according to The Associated Press.

“I would point out however that at this stage [neither] hydroxychloroquine nor chloroquine have been as yet found to be effective in the treatment of COVID-19 or in the prophylaxis against coming down with the disease,” he added. 

Ryan went on to note that warnings have been issued by “many authorities regarding the potential side effects of the drug.”

Trump has repeatedly touted hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria and lupus, as a potential “game changer” in the fight to address the coronavirus outbreak. Health officials have consistently voiced caution about the drug, however, arguing that not enough is known to determine its efficacy. 

The Food and Drug Administration said last month that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, another anti-malaria drug, should not be taken outside of a hospital or clinical trial because they could pose heart problems. The agency said at the time that it released the guidance because of reports about COVID-19 patients experiencing serious cardiac events after taking the drugs. 

Trump sparked alarm from health experts on Monday after stating that he was using the drug. He’s since stood by the decision, though has said that he will finish taking the drug in two days. 

The WHO is currently overseeing “Solidarity Trials” involving multiple countries and four potential treatments for COVID-19, the AP noted. The drugs include remdesivir, the HIV treatment lopinavir and ritonavir, multiple sclerosis treatment interferon beta-1a, as well as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. 

COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, was first reported in China in December, before spreading throughout the world and infecting millions. As of Thursday morning, at least 5 million people had contracted the virus and more than 328,000 had died from it, according to a Johns Hopkins University database.  

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