France has clamped down on the much-talked about drug that many have taken against Covid-19, including US President Donald Trump. A new study showed that the treatment increases the risk of death from the virus.
The French government has revoked its decree authorizing the prescription of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) for treating Covid-19 patients, with the exception of clinical trials. The decision came after the government’s advisory body, the High Council of Public Health (HCPS), and the National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety (ANSM) both gave unfavorable opinions on the drug.
The HCPS recommended against using hydroxychloroquine outside of clinical trials, regardless of whether the patients took the drug alone or in combination with antibiotics. The ANSM, in turn, initiated a procedure to suspend clinical trials involving the use of HCQ “as a precaution.”
The drug has become a buzzword in the media as many place high hopes on finding a cure for the novel coronavirus. HCQ became increasingly popular in France to fight Covid-19 symptoms, as its prescription rate jumped by 7,000 percent in some parts of the country, according to local media.
However, a recent study published in the Lancet journal was “unable to confirm a benefit” of taking hydroxychloroquine to battle the virus after researchers analyzed 96,032 hospitalized Covid-19 patients, 3,016 of whom took HCQ, and 6,221 took HCQ with a macrolide antibiotic. Furthermore, hydroxychloroquine was “associated” with increased risks of “significant occurrence” of ventricular arrhythmias and in-hospital death with Covid-19, the study noted.
The study in the Lancet prompted French Health Minister Olivier Veran to launch a review of the use of HCQ, and the World Health Organization to halt the use of the drug in its global trials of the experiential Covid-19 treatment.
Hydroxychloroquine has been repeatedly touted by Trump as a prospective remedy against Covid-19. The US president said he had been taking HCQ “every day” as a prophylactic for about two weeks.
Trump’s promotion of the drug drew criticism from experts and political opponents, who said it was irresponsible and dangerous for a high-ranking official to disseminate information about unproven treatments.