The World Health Organization’s suspension of trials due to safety concerns follows endorsements by leaders including US President Donald Trump.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has temporarily suspended human clinical trials of a widely touted drug being used to treat coronavirus infection after safety concerns emerged.

Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malaria medication being used across the world to treat Covid-19 patients with little confirmed knowledge about its effectiveness in clinical cases.

Its most prominent proponents include US President Donald Trump, who says that he has been using the drug, as well as countries such as France, Brazil, Senegal, Italy, and India.

According to Nikkei, India had sent consignments of the drug to 25 African states last week. The continent has a long history of battling malaria, a disease Hydroxychloroquine is also used to treat.

"A lot of good things have come out about the (Hydroxychloroquine). You'd be surprised at how many people are taking it, especially the frontline workers," Trump said in April. 

"I happen to be taking it. I'm taking it, hydroxychloroquine. Right now,” he added, but confirming later in May that he was no longer taking the medicine.

The WHO move comes just days after a Lancet study found that hydroxychloroquine may actually cause harm to patients.

Speaking to the Indian Express, Professor Frank Ruschitzka, an author of the study, said: “This is the largest observational study done so far. Clearly the use of the drug for treating Covid-19 patients shows harm, and I am very concerned. It is reasonably safe to treat malaria. But there is no benefit of this drug for Covid patients.”

Risks to heart

The WHO said it was also carrying out its own studies on the effectiveness of the drug in treating Covid-19, as well as its safety implications.

Four drugs are being tested by the organisation as part of its “Solidarity Trial”.

Nearly 3,500 patients across 35 countries are enrolled in 17 countries as part of the programme, the WHO said, while the Lancet study included 96,000 patients suffering from the infection.

Risks associated with hydroxychloroquine, included abnormal heartbeats, which could lead to heart attacks according to the Lancet.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus insisted the drug was still effective with regard to malaria sufferers and those with auto-immune disorders, but warned that the Lancet report found higher mortality rates among patients receiving Hydroxychloroquine.

Trump’s endorsement of the drug was seen as controversial at the time and criticised by US media outlets.

Shortly after his first endorsement in March, a man died after trying to self-medicate against the coronavirus using chloroquine, a related drug.

Source: TRT World