Hydroxychloroquine
© Reuters
Anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine
Several European nations, including France, Italy and Belgium, followed a World Health Organisation decision on Monday to pause a large trial of hydroxychloroquine due to safety concerns.

Spain has said it sees no reason to stop the use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to treat COVID-19 patients even as European governments moved on Wednesday to halt the use of the anti-malaria drug.

Several European nations, including France, Italy and Belgium, followed a World Health Organisation decision on Monday to pause a large trial of hydroxychloroquine due to safety concerns.

A UK regulator said on Wednesday that a separate trial was also being put on hold, less than a week after it started. The study, being led by the University of Oxford and partly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was expected to involve as many as 40,000 healthcare workers.


Comment: An obvious conflict of interest there because The Gates Foundation are championing the lockdown while pushing for a vaccine to be rolled out worldwide.


After early reports that it might help some patients, regulators in several countries had allowed hydroxychloroquine to be used as a potential COVID-19 treatment.

US President Donald Trump was a particularly strong supporter, describing the drug as a "gamechanger." He later announced he was taking it to prevent infection.

However, more recent studies have raised serious safety issues. British medical journal The Lancet has reported coronavirus patients receiving hydroxychloroquine were more likely to die and experience dangerous irregular heartbeats. A Lancet study found a higher mortality rate among COVID-19 patients who had received HCQ.


Comment: It has also been reported that these doses of HCQ are being administered at too late a stage, thus distorting the possible efficacy in the results, as would be the case with most drugs.


Spanish health watchdog, AEMPS, said the paper published by Lancet was not conclusive enough to stop testing it at Spanish hospitals.

On the contrary, on Wednesday, France's health ministry had cancelled a decree in place for nearly two months that had allowed hospital doctors to dispense it in specific situations for COVID-19.

Medicines agencies in France and Italy said the drug should not be used for COVID-19 outside clinical trials. Belgium's regulator said trials aiming to evaluate the drug should also take potential risks into consideration.

Germany is looking at The Lancet study and the WHO's decision but has not made any decision about new guidance on hydroxychloroquine.

The US Food and Drug Administration has allowed healthcare providers to use hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 through an emergency-use authorisation, but has not approved them to treat it.