France halts giving Trump’s favoured coronavirus drug to Covid-19 patients

US president says he took anti-malaria drug to avoid catching virus

Zoe Tidman
Wednesday 27 May 2020 10:30 BST
Coronavirus in numbers

Hydroxychloroquine will no longer be given to coronavirus patients in hospitals in France.

The move comes after a leading French health body advised against using the anti-malaria drug as treatment for people ill with Covid-19 amid safety concerns.

France’s government revoked a decree on Wednesday which allowed hydroxychloroquine to be prescribed to coronavirus patients in hospitals suffering from severe forms of the virus.

The US president and others have pushed the drug in recent months as a possible Covid-19 treatment.

Donald Trump said this month he had taken hydroxychloroquine​ to stave off coronavirus, despite warnings from health authorities over potentially dangerous side effects.

The Haut Conseil de la Santé Publique (HCSP), a French advisory health body, said they did not support the drug’s use for Covid-19 treatment earlier this week.

The HCSP said they made their decision after looking at international recommendations and publications on the subject, such as an article in a British medical journal which reported patients taking hydroxychloroquine had increased death rates and irregular heartbeats.

“Our large-scale, international, real-world analysis supports the absence of a clinical benefit of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine and points to potential harm in hospitalised patients with Covid-19,” the authors of the study published in The Lancet wrote.

The French Agency for the Safety of Health Products (ANSM) said this week it was working to stop French clinical trials into the drug from taking on new patients as a precaution.

France decided at the end of March to permit the use of the anti-malarial drug in specific situations and in hospitals only.

The French government cancelled the decree allowing this treatment two days after the World Health Organisation said it was pausing a large trial of hydroxychloroquine due to safety concerns.

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are approved for treating lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and for preventing and treating malaria, but no large rigorous tests have found them safe or effective for preventing or treating Covid-19.

No vaccine or treatment has yet been approved to treat coronavirus, which has infected more than 5.6 million people around the world to date.

The global death toll for the virus stood at around 350,000 on Wednesday.

Additional reporting by agencies

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