PARIS: Banned in some countries, promoted in others – the drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for the new coronavirus is dividing world opinion.
Scientists seeking to find authorized drugs that could be reused as treatment for COVID-19 had started testing for hydroxychloroquine, which is normally used to treat arthritis, and for chloroquine, an antimalarial.
Both drugs can produce potentially serious side effects, especially cardiac arrhythmia, which leads many experts to warn against their use outside of clinical trials.
But that hasn’t stopped people like President Donald Trump from approving hydroxychloroquine despite the lack of evidence of its effectiveness.
Intensifying the debate, The Lancet released a study on nearly 100,000 coronavirus patients on May 22 that showed no benefit in treating them with both drugs – and even increased the likelihood of death in hospital. .
This has led the World Health Organization to suspend clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine, but dozens of scientists have since raised concerns about the study methodology.
The Lancet corrected some of the data, but the researchers maintained their conclusions.
The countries of the world vary according to their own policies.
The study urges several countries to stop using hydroxychloroquine.
France does so on May 27, a few days after the controversial French doctor Didier Raoult – whose methodology was questioned – rejected the study and maintained his belief that the drug can help patients recover from the virus .
Other countries, including Italy, Egypt, Tunisia, Colombia, Chile, El Salvador, Cape Verde, Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina also prohibit the use of the drug for COVID patients- 19, although in Italy this is still possible in clinical trials.
Hungary, meanwhile, does not use the drug “for newly diagnosed patients” but continues to use it “for patients who have already started taking it,” according to a government spokesperson.
Even before the study, some countries had stopped using hydroxychloroquine for patients with COVID-19.
Sweden had used the drug in the early stages of the pandemic to treat patients with severe symptoms, but suspended its use in April after the European Medicines Agency recommended that it be used only in trials clinics.
Germany also ruled that the ongoing studies did not allow the drug to be used on individual COVID-19 patients and that it could only be used in clinical trials.
Several countries continue to promote the use of hydroxychloroquine in the fight against the virus.
These include Brazil, Algeria, Morocco, Turkey, Jordan, Romania, Portugal, Kenya, Senegal, Chad and the Republic of Congo.
Russia, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates have not yet suspended the use of this drug, and in particular Iran’s recent prescription publications on social media show that patients infected with the virus are still receiving it.
Thailand also continues to use hydroxychloroquine to treat patients with COVID-19, and India and Venezuela continue to use the drug as a preventative.
Cuba is also using the drug but will revise its protocols to introduce new precautions.
In the United States, hydroxychloroquine can in principle only be given to COVID-19 hospitalized patients, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned in April that the drug could have a potentially harmful impact on the heart.
Trump had promoted the use of the drug and even said he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a precaution, before saying shortly after the study was published that he had stopped.
The study led to the suspension of the use of the drug in several clinical trials including the WHO Solidarity Trial and the European Discovery program coordinated by the French research institute Inserm.
The international Copcov trial also suspended its use of doses on medical personnel in contact with the virus.
Two trials led by the University of Tuebingen clinic in Germany and five trials in Denmark have also been suspended and Mali also says it is ready to suspend its clinical trials.
But other clinical trials are continuing, such as the Recovery trial in Britain, the McGill University trial in Canada, and those underway in Nigeria and Mexico.
In China, the drug is only used in clinical trials, but its potential as a treatment, considered promising by Wuhan University in February, has since been questioned by a respected hospital in Shanghai.