The World Health Organisation is removing hydroxychloroquine from its global study of potential COVID-19 treatments while it carries out a review of its safety.
Last week, Donald Trump said he was taking the anti-malarial drug, which he has promoted as providing possible protection from coronavirus, despite warnings from health officials that it could cause heart problems.
The decision by the WHO to temporarily suspend hydroxychloroquine from its study follows a paper published in The Lancet last week which suggested it might actually increase the risk for COVID-19 patients.
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In a study of 96,000 coronavirus patients, almost 15,000 were given hydroxychloroquine – or a related form chloroquine – either alone or with an antibiotic.
It found that death rates for those treated with hydroxychloroquine were 18%, compared with 16.4% for chloroquine and 9% for the control group.
Those treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine in combination with antibiotics had an even higher death rate.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that, in light of the research, there would be “a temporary pause” on the hydroxychloroquine arm of its global clinical trial.
Other treatments in the study, including the experimental anti-viral drug remdesivir, which was originally developed to combat ebola, and an HIV combination therapy, are still being pursued.
In a television interview on Sunday, Mr Trump confirmed he had just finished a two-week course of hydroxychloroquine and that he was “still here”.
When asked about his use of the drug by Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Sharyl Attkisson, the president said: “Well, I’ve heard tremendous reports about it. Frankly, I’ve heard tremendous reports. Many people think it saved their lives. Doctors come out with reports.
“You had a study in France, you had a study in Italy that were incredible studies. Look, if somebody else were promoting it other than me, call it a promotion because I want people to get better.
“I don’t get anything. I don’t gain anything other than if it’s something that helps, that’s a good thing. That’s what I want.”