WHO calls off Hydroxychloroquine trial for COVID-19 treatment: Here's why
Anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and anti-HIV drug combination lopinavir/ritonavir will no longer be explored as potential treatments for COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO has discontinued the medicines' Solidarity trials after initial results showed they did not have any major benefit on hospitalized patients infected by the novel coronavirus. Here's all you need to know about it.
Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is widely manufactured and sold in India for the treatment of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis as well as to prevent and treat malaria. Meanwhile, lopinavir/ritonavir (LPV/r) is a fixed-dose combination medication for the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS. It combines lopinavir with a low dose of ritonavir and is mostly recommended for use with other antiretrovirals.
As some small studies suggested HCQ and the HIV drugs could be used as COVID-19 treatments, WHO included them in the global Solidarity trials exploring different therapies to find a safe and effective way to treat or prevent COVID-19. The trials started off with five arms: standard care; remdesivir; hydroxychloroquine; lopinavir/ritonavir; and lopinavir/ritonavir combined with interferon.
After reviewing the interim results of the trial, WHO found that HCQ and lopinavir/ritonavir did not show any benefit on hospitalized patients and, therefore, decided to end these studies. "These interim trial results show that hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir produce little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalized COVID-19 patients when compared to standard of care," the health body stated.
In addition to this, the agency also found some associated "safety signals" with the two aforementioned treatments. Previously, a study published in The Lancet raised alarm over increased mortality from HCQ but the WHO clarified there is no solid evidence of that for both of the drugs. Moreover, the WHO added that the safety signals will be detailed in a peer-reviewed journal.
The WHO says investigators exploring these drugs as treatments for hospitalized COVID-19 patients have been asked to stop the trials with immediate effect. However, it also emphasized that its decision does not affect the possible evaluation of hydroxychloroquine or lopinavir/ritonavir in non-hospitalized patients or as pre- or post-exposure prophylaxis (preventive treatment) for the deadly disease. Notably, India, too, recommended HCQ as a preventive treatment.