While the U.S. stores up to 29 million doses of the drug, which is also used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, side effects data from the French drug safety agency highlights the risk to use unproven treatments to stem a pandemic that has killed over 100,000 people worldwide.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday visited a clinic in Marseille, in the south of France, where reports of uncontrolled studies recently boosted the 65-year-old drug. Macron’s advisers said the trip was not an endorsement.
France has registered around 100 health incidents and four deaths related to investigational drugs for coronavirus patients since March 27, the national drug safety agency ANSM said on Friday. Three other patients had to be resuscitated.
Some 82 incidents were deemed “serious”. Most of them were split between hydroxychloroquine and the anti-HIV antivirals lopinavir-ritonavir, the agency said.
Didier Raoult, the researcher whose studies aroused worldwide interest in hydroxychloroquine, has been criticized by the scientific community for his methods – in particular, the absence of a control group to establish a benchmark for the success of his experimental treatments .
Raoult says there is no need to put a group of patients on placebo to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of the treatment he promotes.
In March, Nigeria reported cases of chloroquine poisoning after Trump praised the antimalarial drug as a treatment for the new coronavirus.
“These drugs should only be used in hospitals, under close medical supervision,” the French ANSM said in the statement. The agency cited the “unusual” background and the fact that they are used for a disease other than those for which they were developed.