WHO Suspends Tests on Malaria Drug Touted by Donald Trump as Coronavirus Treatment

President Donald Trump made headlines in mid-May when he claimed that he was taking the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure against the coronavirus, even though the drug was not proven to be effective for this particular use. Now, according to the Daily Mail, the World Health Organization (WHO) has suspended the use of hydroxychloroquine in their Solidarity Trial. The trial was reportedly evaluating the safety and efficacy of four drugs and drug combinations, including hydroxychloroquine, in treating the coronavirus.

According to the publication, WHO was concerned about the use of hydroxychloroquine in its trial following the release of a study from The Lancet regarding the drug. The Lancet's study, which it published on Friday, purported that there was a higher mortality rate amongst COVID-19 patients who had taken hydroxychloroquine. As a result, WHO suspended the use of the drug in their Solidarity Trial, which has been trying to determine a safe and effective treatment for the illness. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement on Monday regarding this news, "The executive group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity trial while the safety data is reviewed by the data safety monitoring board."

Ghebreyesus continued to stress that hydroxychloroquine is generally safe for use in patients who have autoimmune diseases or malaria. He also shared that WHO will give updates about this news as soon as they know more. The Director-General added, "And we will continue to work night and day for solutions, science and solidarity." Dr. Mike Ryan, head of WHO's emergencies program, also shared that the decision to suspend the use of the anti-malarial drug in their trial was made out of "an abundance of caution."

WHO previously cautioned against the use of hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, with the exception that it was being studied as a part of their trial. Although they cautioned against using the drug, Trump previously shared that he was taking it as a precaution amidst the coronavirus crisis. According to the Daily Mail, the president told reporters on May 18 that he was taking the drug and that he had been taking it for over a week. He said, "I have been taking it for about a week and a half. Every day. I take a pill every day." Trump added that "at some point, I'll stop."