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WHO temporarily pauses hydroxychloroquine study, citing safety concerns

Taylor Watson

The World Health Organization is temporarily halting a study on hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as potential COVID-19 treatments due to safety concerns.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the decision on Monday, after a study published in The Lancet medical journal suggested COVID-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were more likely to die, CNN reports. The drugs were being reviewed as part of the WHO's Solidarity Trial — a coronavirus research effort involving more than 400 hospitals in 35 countries.

President Donald Trump last week revealed he takes hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure against COVID-19, despite there being no evidence of its effectiveness and the FDA cautioning against the drug due to serious side effects including abnormal heart rhythms. Meanwhile Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is touting the other drug halted in the study, chloroquine.

The Data Safety Monitoring Board will review data about the drugs to assess whether they should continue to be used in the trial, though other arms of the trial will carry on, per CNN.

Tedros noted the halt concerns hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as they pertain to COVID-19. "I wish to reiterate that these drugs are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria," he said.

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