European Governments Suspend Using Anti-Malaria Drug for COVID-19 due to WHO’s Safety Concerns  

Many European governments have decided to halt the use of an anti-malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients as there were safety concerns as put forwarded by the World Health Organization (WHO). The second global trial of the drug, which was termed by US President Donald Trump as a “game-changer,” was suspended, which would be a heavy blow to the global search for a vaccine for the virus treatment.

Trump Considered the Drug a “Game Changer”

Many governments across regions have started allowing to use the drug as a potential COVID-19 treatment since some reports claimed it to be very effective and Trump had earlier hailed high of the drug by terming it to be a potential vaccine for the virus and even announced that he was taking it to prevent from infection.

Under the direction of the Trump administration, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed healthcare providers to use hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 through an emergency-use authorization but has not yet approved it for mass treatment. With the concerns for safety arose, the FDA declared in April that the drug should be used only for hospitalized COVID-19 patients or those in clinical trials.

However, several medical agency reports showed that the drug was instead found to be risky for patients. A medicine agency AIFA said, “New clinical evidence on the use of hydroxychloroquine in subjects with SARS-CoV-2 infection … indicates an increased risk of adverse reactions with little or no benefit.” With these concerns, the WHO said a safety panel would evaluate by mid-June the drug’s use in its multi-country trial of potential COVID-19 treatments.

European Countries Suspended the Drug  

European countries such as France, Italy, and Belgium followed a decision taken by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday to put a large trial of hydroxychloroquine on hold due to safety issues. Meanwhile, Swiss drugmaker Novartis is pushing ahead with its US study involving 440 patients, while French company Sanofi declined to comment on the future of its two trials.

A UK regulator said on Wednesday that a separate trial, which was being led by the University of Oxford and partly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, had to be suspended less than a week after it started. Concerning safety issues of the drug, a British medical journal The Lancet has reported coronavirus patients who received hydroxychloroquine were more likely to die and experience dangerous irregular heartbeats.

On Wednesday, France’s health ministry canceled a decree, which allowed hospital doctors to dispense it in specific situations for COVID-19 that was in place for nearly two months. Similarly, Italian health authorities concluded that the drug showed little evidence of benefits for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Meanwhile, a German drug regulatory official said that the country was following at The Lancet study and the WHO’s decision but has not made any decision on hydroxychloroquine usage.

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