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WHO Ends Coronavirus Trial of Hydroxychloroquine

The drug hydroxychloroquine proposed in recent months as a possible treatment for the coronavirus is displayed by a pharmacist at the Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, May 27, 2020. (George Frey/Reuters)

The World Health Organization said Wednesday it is ending its trial of the drug hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug promoted by President Trump and others as a treatment for coronavirus, citing data indicating the drug was not effective.

The WHO found that there was “no apparent beneficial effect of hydroxychloroquine” and ended testing for the drug in the United Nations agency’s Solidarity trial after data from that trial as well as a large UK trial indicated that it did not have any effect on mortality or ventilation in hospitalized patients.

“The decision was made to stop the randomization with the hydroxychloroquine trial,” WHO medical officer Dr. Ana Maria Henao Restrepo said.

The Food and Drug Administration said Monday it was ending its emergency authorization for hydroxychloroquine and the related drug chloroquine, concluding that the pair of medicines was “unlikely to be effective in treating COVID-19.” The agency had approved the emergency use of the drugs in March.

Several smaller studies earlier this year suggested hydroxychloroquine could be effective in reducing coronavirus mortality rates, sparking hope that the drug could be one of the first treatments for the deadly infection that has spread across the globe.

President Trump revealed last month that he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure against the coronavirus after enthusiastically backing the drug as possibly “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine” when taken together with another drug, azithromycin.

“What do you have to lose? They say, ‘Take it.’ I’m not looking at it one way or the other, but we want to get out of this,” he said during a press conference in April. “If it does work, it would be a shame if we didn’t do it early.”

The WHO’s Solidarity trial is continuing to test other drugs as possible coronavirus treatments.

This week, a UK trial showed that a commonly used steroid, dexamethasone, reduced deaths in coronavirus patients who were on ventilators or receiving oxygen.

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