June 10, 2023


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WHO says ‘no empirical evidence’ Trump-touted hydroxychloroquine helps treat or prevent coronavirus

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World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus R speaks at a daily briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 2, 2020.

Chen Junxia | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

There is no evidence that the anti-malarial drug President Donald Trump said he was taking to defend against Covid-19 effectively treats or prevents the coronavirus, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

The president has continually touted the drug as a “game-changer” in treating Covid-19, despite little evidence of its efficacy and safety. There are no treatments for Covid-19 approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

“There is no empirical evidence at this point that these drugs work in this case either for treatment or for prophylaxis,” executive director of the WHO’s emergencies program Mike Ryan said. “We do not advise the use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for the treatment of Covid-19 outside randomized control trials or under appropriate close clinical supervision subject to whatever national regulatory authorities have decided.”

The U.N. agency announced earlier this week that it suspended its trial of hydroxychloroquine to review whether the drug is safe for use by Covid-19 patients. That announcement came after a study published last week found that hospitalized Covid-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine had a higher risk of death than those who didn’t take it.

The WHO hopes to continue with its trial of the drugs, Ryan said, adding that it paused the trial out of “an abundance of caution.” 

The day before the WHO said it was suspending the drug trial, Trump said he had “just finished” taking a two-week course of the drug to prevent infection.

“And by the way, I’m still here,” he said in an interview that aired on Sinclair Broadcasting on Sunday. “Well, I’ve heard tremendous reports about it. Frankly, I’ve heard tremendous reports. Many people think it saved their lives. Doctors come out with reports. You had a study in France, you had a study in Italy that were incredible studies.”

Clinical research from large, randomized trials have indicated that the decades-old drug is not effective in treating Covid-19 and might even exacerbate other health conditions, prompting France to announce earlier Wednesday that they banned the use of the potential treatment.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned patients last month against taking chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19 outside a hospital or formal clinical trial setting. The agency said it became aware of reports of “serious heart rhythm problems” in patients with the virus who were treated with the drugs.

White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said earlier Wednesday that “the lack of efficacy” for anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is clear. With a vaccine unlikely to be ready for general distribution before 2021, according to former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, finding an effective treatment for the disease before any more major outbreaks will be key in reopening society.

—CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace contributed to this report.

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