WHO takes a U-turn, resumes Hydroxychloroquine trials: Details here
The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that it will be resuming the clinical trials of anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine around the world. The tests, a part of WHO's Solidarity broader trials to find ways to prevent and treat COVID-19, were halted in light of fears of increased mortality rate stemming from the drug. However, now, all those concerns have been allayed. Here's more.
Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is a drug used to treat autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis as well as to prevent and treat malaria. India, which manufactures 70% of the world's Hydroxychloroquine, said certain pre-clinical studies have shown that the drug is an effective prophylactic against the novel coronavirus. Since then, it has been exported globally to be tested as a preventive treatment or cure for COVID-19.
In order to explore the potential benefits (and risks) associated with HCQ, WHO included it in the global Solidarity trials testing different therapies to find an ideal way to treat and prevent COVID-19. But, as the tests progressed, The Lancet published a study suggesting that the drug has no benefit in treating COVID-19 and might even increase the risk of dying for some.
The safety concerns stemming from the study prompted WHO to halt the HCQ arm of the Solidarity trials as a precautionary measure and review all the safety data available on the drug. Meanwhile, India's ICMR rejected the advisory and clarified that the drug has "no major side-effects" and its use should be continued "as [a] preventive treatment for COVID-19."
On June 3, a little over a week after the trials were suspended, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus clarified that the mortality data available on the drug is safe, and "there are no reasons to modify the trial protocol." He said, "The executive group [of the trial] received this recommendation and [has] endorsed [the] continuation of all arms of the Solidarity Trial, including Hydroxychloroquine."
With this clearance, the WHO trial exploring Hydroxychloroquine is expected to resume soon. "The executive group will communicate with the principal investigators in the trial about resuming the Hydroxychloroquine arm of the trial," the WHO chief said, per AFP. "The data safety and monitoring committee will continue to closely monitor the safety of all therapeutics being tested in the Solidarity Trial."
The HCQ clearance from the WHO chief comes as the scientific community races to find a treatment for COVID-19 and stop the ongoing pandemic. The disease started spreading in late December and has killed nearly 3.86 lakh people worldwide, with nearly 64 lakh being infected.