Global COVID-19 total nears 6.5 million as WHO resumes drug trial

June 4, 2020

World Health Organization (WHO) advisors allowed the hydroxychloroquine arm of a large multi-country treatment trial to resume, following a temporary pause to allow its safety monitoring group to review the data.

As the global total approached 6.5 million cases, the agency said it is worried about accelerating epidemics, especially in Central and South America. The global total climbed to over 6,445,000, and more than 386,000 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

After a recent observational study in The Lancet reported that COVID-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine had a higher risk of death and serious heart rhythm complications, a WHO review board overseeing large multi-country randomized controlled trials of four different treatments announced a pause on the hydroxychloroquine arm of the study so that its safety monitoring group could look for any problems.

At a media briefing, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said that, based on mortality data, members saw no reason to modify the trial protocol and added that the group will notify principal investigators that the hydroxycholoroquine part of the trial can resume. "The Data Safety and Monitoring Committee will continue to closely monitor the safety of all therapeutics being tested in the Solidarity Trial," Tedros said, adding that, so far, the SOLIDARITY trial has recruited more than 3,500 patients in 35 countries.

The controversial drug has been touted as a treatment by the leaders of some countries, such as the United States and Brazil, despite scant evidence of its effectiveness. A group of more than 100 scientists recently signed a letter to The Lancet regarding their concerns about the data in the large observational trial that recently raised safety concerns.

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