The French government on Wednesday banned the use of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19, reversing a previous order from March that allowed the anti-malarial drug to be used as an experimental treatment for the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
The change is effective immediately. Hydroxychloroquine — approved the US Food and Drug Administration in 1955 — is typically used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and malaria.
On Monday, the World Health Organization announced it was temporarily suspending the drug’s use in an ongoing trial over efficacy and safety concerns. The chief scientist of the WHO said the committee in charge of overseeing the trial, known as the “Solidarity” international clinical trial, said it decided to “err on the side of caution and suspend enrollment into the hydroxychloroquine arm.”
Officials stressed that the WHO halt was only temporary and part of standard practice. The commission would meet in two weeks to determine whether to push forward with hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for the disease, the WHO said.
The largest study of the drug conducted so far conducted by The Lancet, a British medical journal, found that coronavirus patients receiving hydroxychloroquine had an increased risk of an irregular heartbeat and death. The study looked at patients over the span of four months and across six continents.