France bans hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19
The announcement by the French government comes two days after the World Health Organization said it was pausing a large trial of the malaria drug due to safety concerns.
The French government on Wednesday cancelled a decree allowing hospital doctors to administer hydroxychloroquine as a treatment to patients suffering severe forms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.
The announcement comes two days after the World Health Organization said it was pausing a large trial of the malaria drug due to safety concerns.
Hydroxycholoroquine has been touted by US President Donald Trump as a possible treatment for the highly-contagious virus. He has said he is taking the drug to help prevent infection.
The Republican leader has been promoting hydroxychloroquine or HCQ as a “game changer” in combating COVID-19, against medical advice and despite warnings from public health officials that it could cause heart problems.
"The executive group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity trial while the safety data is reviewed by the data safety monitoring board," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had said earlier in an online briefing.
He said the other arms of the trial -- a major international initiative to hold clinical tests of potential treatments for the virus -- were continuing.
The WHO has previously recommended against using hydroxychloroquine to treat or prevent coronavirus infections, except as part of clinical trials. Dr Mike Ryan, head of the WHO emergencies programme, said the decision to suspend trials of hydroxychloroquine had been taken out of "an abundance of caution".
Last week, a study in British medical journal The Lancet said there were no benefits to treating coronavirus patients with hydroxychloroquine, and that taking it might even increase the number of deaths among those in hospital with the disease.
The study results showed that the drug use in COVID-19 patients raised the risk of death by up to 45 per cent.
Hydroxychloroquine is safe for malaria, and conditions like lupus or arthritis, but no clinical trials have recommended its use for treating Covid-19. 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 hospital and develop heart rhythm complications than other COVID-19 patients in a comparison group.
France decided at the end of March to allow the use of hydroxychloroquine in specific situations and in hospitals only. No vaccine or treatment has yet been approved to treat COVID-19 which has killed more than 350,000 people globally.