Story at a glance

  • Three European countries have issued bans and warnings regarding the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 infections.
  • In the U.S., the CDC authorized it for emergency usage, but warned of fatal risks.

Following France’s ban Wednesday on the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus, neighboring countries Belgium and Italy are now also halting the use of the antimalarial drug on patients suffering from COVID-19. 

Belgium’s official medicine agency is warning against using the drug to treat the virus, issuing an exemption within ongoing clinical registered trials, according to Reuters. It reportedly advises that trials working to test hydroxychloroquine’s effectiveness should also take potential risks into consideration.

Likewise, Italian health officials have found that the associated risks and lack of evidence supporting hydroxychloroquine as a promising treatment make it unsuitable to be used outside a clinical setting. Reuters reports that the Italian Medicine Agency (AIFA) suspended authorization to use the drug outside clinical trials. This means patients who have a confirmed COVID-19 infection will not be permitted to receive hydroxychloroquine from health care providers.

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The AIFA reportedly stated that “New clinical evidence on the use of hydroxychloroquine in subjects with SARS-CoV-2 infection...indicates an increased risk for adverse reactions with little or no benefit.”

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Other regulatory agencies have found problems with using hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus. The British medical journal The Lancet published an influential study last week that found patients receiving hydroxychloroquine saw increased instances of death as well as slow and irregular heartbeats.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday brought a study on hydroxychloroquine’s effect on coronavirus patients to a halt amid safety concerns outlined by The Lancet’s article.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that an independent executive group will be considering "data collected so far in the Solidarity Trial and, in particular robust randomized available data, to adequately evaluate the potential benefits and harms from this drug.”


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Ghebreyesus reiterated that the drug is still effective and safe when treating malaria.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorized the drug for emergency use on April 27, though it warned of serious side effects. President Trump said on May 18 that he was taking hydroxychloroquine daily to ward off a coronavirus infection.

There are currently no drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the coronavirus.


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Published on May 27, 2020