Coronavirus Pandemic

Coronavirus: World Health Organization warns of potential hydroxychloroquine side effects

Agencies/Geneva, Switzerland/Washington
Filed on May 21, 2020
World Health Organization, Dr Michael Ryan, warning, hydroxychloroquine, potential side effects, coronavirus, Covid-19. Donald Trump
A pharmacy worker shows pills of hydroxychloroquine used to treat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the CHR Centre Hospitalier Regional de la Citadelle Hospital in Liege, Belgium, April 22, 2020.


Donald Trump is due to finish his course of the anti-malaria drug to ward off Covid-19 in the next day or two, but WHO expert Ryan says it should only be used in clinical trials.

A leading World Health Organization (WHO) official on Wednesday warned against using hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug, in the treatment of Covid-19, saying many authorities had reported 'potential side effects' from it.

The news came as U.S. President Donald Trump said the regimen of hydroxychloroquine that he is taking to ward off the coronavirus finishes in the next day or two.

Trump revealed this week he was taking the drug despite medical warnings about potential serious side effects and questions about its effectiveness in preventing Covid-19.

Earlier, Dr Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, told a press conference that, despite the fact that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are already licensed for many diseases, they have as yet not been found to be effective in the treatment of Covid-19 or in the prophylaxis against coming down with the disease".

"And, in fact, the opposite; warnings have been issued by many authorities regarding the potential side effects of the drug and many countries have limited its use to that of clinical trials or during clinical trials or under the supervision of clinicians in a hospital setting that's specifically for Covid-19, because of a number of potential side effects that have occurred and could occur," Ryan said.

"Having said that, again it is for each national authority to weigh and assess the evidence for and against the use of this drug."

Ryan said that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine feature in the ongoing "solidarity trials" that are being undertaken in many countries.

"`We would advise that, for Covid-19, that these drugs be reserved for use within such trials," he added.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead of the WHO's Health Emergencies Programme, added: "As of today, we have more than 3,000 patients enrolled from 320 hospitals in 17 countries, and so that's a show of solidarity and called the solidarity trial, but it's really a show of collaboration and willingness to work towards a common goal of understanding which therapeutics are safe and effective against Covid-19."

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