Hydroxychloroquine should not be used to prevent or treat COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised this week. The anti-inflammatory drug was once touted by former President Donald Trump, who said he was taking the treatment to prevent contracting coronavirus last spring.
A panel of WHO experts found that the drug has no meaningful effect on deaths or hospitalizations due to coronavirus. They added that it may even increase the risk of adverse effects.
With high certainty, "the guideline development panel made a strong recommendation against the use of hydroxychloroquine for individuals who do not have covid-19," the panel wrote in the peer-reviewed medical journal The BMJ on Tuesday.
"The panel judged that almost all people would not consider this drug worthwhile."
The evidence culminated from six randomized control trials that included more than 6,000 people — both with and without known exposure to the virus.
The panel said that hydroxychloroquine is no longer considered a research priority and researchers should refocus their efforts on other promising preventive drugs. It added the more than 80 trials planning to enroll at least 100,000 participants to further research hydroxychloroquine are unlikely to uncover any benefits and should be canceled.
The drug, which is used to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, gained prominence when Mr. Trump and other members of his administration promoted it heavily. The former president contracted the virus in October, and received an unauthorized monoclonal antibody treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center.
The FDA initially issued an emergency use authorization for the drug last March. It withdrew the authorization in June, after it determined the drug is "unlikely to be effective in treating COVID-19 for the authorized uses."
Federal regulators had previously warned against hydroxychloroquine's use except in hospitals and formal studies because of the risk of side effects, especially heart rhythm problems.