Hydroxychloroquine may be dismissed as a treatment for hospitalized COVID-19 patients – but the World Health Organization said Thursday it was aware of ongoing trials as a preventative measure.
A decade-old malaria and rheumatic drug, hydroxychloroquine has been at the center of political and scientific controversy.
The WHO on Wednesday decided to stop its trial of the drug for novel coronovirus patients at the hospital, following evidence from its own work and others that it had no effect on reducing mortality.
But the United Nations Health Agency said on Thursday that non-WHO tests could determine whether it could be useful in prevention against the virus.
WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said in a virtual press conference, “As far as the use of hydroxychloroquine for prophylaxis or prevention of COVID-19 or before or after exposure – the last word is not yet out”.
“There are some good and big trials going on, and we hope that they will be completed so that we have the kind of evidence that we need to make sure patients get the drugs that help – and those drugs Don’t get those that don’t help. “
Hydroxychloroquine has been touted as a potential treatment by high profile figures for the new coronovirus, including US President Donald Trump.
The drug has been included in several randomized clinical trials – considered the gold standard for clinical investigation – but the WHO said evidence had led it to time it out on its trials.
Swaminathan, an Indian pediatrician, said, “What is clear now is that hydroxychloroquine does not – we now know for sure – have an effect on mortality in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.”
“Where there’s still a difference: does it have a role in prevention or in reducing the severity of early infection? We don’t know that, yet,” she said.
Hydroxychloroquine is being tested by health workers and others on exposure to the virus in a large, randomized trial.
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