June 4, 2020

WHO resumes study of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 after safety review

At the media briefing on June 3, the World Health Organization (WHO) said it will continue evaluating hydroxychloroquine as a potential COVID-19 treatment in its international Solidarity Trial, after a data safety monitoring board decided there was no reason to discontinue the study following a review of available data on the drug. 

"The Executive Group received this recommendation and endorsed the continuation of all arms of the Solidarity Trial, including hydroxychloroquine," said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 

Last week, the Executive Group of the Solidarity Trial decided to implement a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm of the trial, because of concerns raised about the safety of the drug.

"This decision was taken as a precaution while the safety data were reviewed," Dr Tedros noted, but "on the basis of the available mortality data, the members of the committee recommended that there are no reasons to modify the trial protocol." He added that the board will closely monitor the safety of all therapeutics that are being tested in the Solidarity Trial, which includes more than 3500 patients across 35 countries. 

WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan stated that the committee took the decision to protect the safety of the trial participants with abundant caution while WHO looked at its data. Dr Soumya added that other ongoing trials of hydroxychloroquine like the Recovery trial in the UK also looked at its data, which is a “fairly substantial” data set of over 11,000 patients. “We are now fairly confident, not having seen any differences in mortality - the data safety monitoring committees of both Solidarity and Recovery have recommended that the trial can continue,” Dr Soumya said.