France Bans Hydroxychloroquine For Treating COVID-19

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PMH

Studies of the drug have failed to live up to anecdotal claims about its effectiveness against COVID-19.

The Hill reports that on May 27, the French government banned use of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment. In conjunction with this, France cancelled its previous decree from March that allowed the antimalarial to be used for certain COVID-19 patients.

  • France is the first nation to prohibit use of hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 treatment since Monday, when the World Health Organization suspended a drug trial out of safety concerns for the patients. France’s bulletin did not reference the World Health Organization’s announcement.
  • Hydroxychloroquine is normally used to treat malaria, lupus, and arthritis. However, anecdotes that the drug can prevent or even treat COVID-19 have circulated since the early global spread of the pandemic. For example, American President Donald J. Trump called it a “game changer” on Twitter.
  • However, studies such as one published in the [Lancet](https://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736(20%2931180-6.pdf) have not born out these anecdotal claims. The Lancet study even found a correlation between hydroxychloroquine treatment and higher incidence of irregular heartbeats and death.
  • Although hydroxychloroquine is considered safe to use for its typical purposes, it is possible that COVID-19 leaves patients more vulnerable to heart problems. Additionally, the doses used to treat malaria, lupus, and arthritis are generally lower than what anecdotally has been used to treat COVID-19.

In its announcement that it would suspend its hydroxychloroquine trials, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said,

The Executive Group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity Trial while the safety data is reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board…

This concern relates to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in COVID-19.

I wish to reiterate that these drugs are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria.

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