The World Health Organization (WHO) has temporarily suspended testing of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19 as a precautionary measure, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news conference on Monday.
Meanwhile, Mike Ryan, head of the WHO emergencies programme, warned in the same virtual news conference that, despite countries easing lockdowns, the world is “right in the middle of the first wave” of the outbreak, and a there could be a second peak within the wave.
The statements come days after US President Donald Trump announced he had been taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure against the virus. The president, who has said he has since stopped taking the drug, had long touted its benefits as a possible treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, even as health experts warned it might not be safe.
“The executive group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity trial while the safety data is reviewed by the data safety monitoring board,” Tedros said in the online briefing.
The WHO had previously recommended against using hydroxychloroquine to treat or prevent coronavirus infections, except as part of clinical trials.
Ryan added the decision to suspend trials of hydroxychloroquine had been taken out of “an abundance of caution”.
Other arms of the WHO’s so-called “Solidarity Trial” – a large international initiative to hold clinical tests of potential treatments for the virus – would continue, the officials said.