WHO confirms it is pulling hydroxychloroquine from international trial

6 Jul 2020

Image: © sjredwin1/Stock.adobe.com

The WHO has accepted the recommendation to pull hydroxychloroquine, as well as lopinavir and ritonavir, from its international Solidarity Trial.

After provisionally pulling the use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine from use in studies looking at its potential benefits to treat Covid-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially confirmed the drug will no longer be used as part of its Covid-19 Solidarity Trial.

The global body has also halted all associated trials of lopinavir and ritonavir, which are typically used for the treatment of HIV.

The Solidarity Trial uses selected groups of the world’s population to compare four treatment options and assess their effectiveness against the disease.

The trial’s international steering committee said it came to this decision after the interim results for hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir and ritonavir were compared with standard care practices, and from a review of all trials presented at the recent WHO summit on Covid-19 research.

“These interim trial results show that hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir produce little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalised Covid-19 patients when compared to standard of care,” the WHO said in a statement.

“Solidarity trial investigators will interrupt the trials with immediate effect.”

The WHO went on to say this decision only applies to the Solidarity Trial and does not affect studies where these drugs are being used for non-hospitalised patients or as a prophylaxis.

EU approves use of remdesivir

Despite the WHO finding that hydroxychloroquine leads to little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalised Covid-19 patients, a recent study from a team in the US published to the International Journal of Infection Diseases concluded the opposite. However, researchers not involved with this study are critical of its findings.

Speaking to CNN, these researchers noted that participants were selected for the US study rather than being randomised, and that concomitant steroid use in patients receiving hydroxychloroquine may have influenced the results.

Following the announcement last month that Ireland would be taking part in the WHO-led trial, this now leaves just two drugs still approved for testing.

These include remdesivir, which was previously tested as an Ebola treatment; and interferon beta-1a, which is used for the treatment of multiple sclerosis.

On Friday (3 July), the European Commission gave conditional approval for the use of remdesivir – developed by Gilead and marketed as Veklury – in the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) infection.

“We are granting this authorisation less than a month after the application was submitted, showing clearly the EU’s determination to respond quickly whenever new treatments become available,” said Stella Kyriakidea, the EU’s commissioner for health and food safety.

“We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to secure efficient treatments or vaccine against the coronavirus.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic