The World Health Organization has temporarily suspended a clinical trial of antimalarial drugs for Covid treatment following the May 22 publication by The Lancet of a study that found no benefit from the therapy and associated risk of higher deaths from the treatment.
The drugs include Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), the antimalarial drug touted by President Donald Trump as a therapy for reducing the effects of infection by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
HCQ and chloroquine (CQ) do not help and seem to be associated with a higher mortality rate among patients hospitalized for Covid, the condition said to result from the virus infection, according to a study of more than 96,000 patients around the world hospitalized for Covid.
The study by Mandeep Mehra, a Harvard Medical School professor and physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and colleagues at other institutions, included patients with a positive laboratory test for Covid-19 who were hospitalized between Dec. 20, 2019, and April 14, 2020, at 671 medical centers worldwide.
WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a media briefing yesterday, May 25, the WHO is suspending a fast-track clinical trial of HCQ and CQ for Covid that has been ongoing. That trial is in lieu of a randomized clinical trial, which usually take years to conduct.
Business Alabama noted risks associated with HCQ and CQ in an article on May 21 that quoted Dr. Randall Moreadith, president and CEO of Serina Therapeutics Inc., a drug development company that is an associate company of HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.
Moreadith calls the recently published Lancet study “the definitive word on use of HCQ or CQ in the treatment of Covid-19. While the study is not a randomized, controlled trial, the sheer size of the trial, more than 96,000 patients, adds enormous statistical power to any observation and allows for analysis for any independent variable.
“Bottom line — HCQ and CQ increase in-hospital mortality in patients taking either who have Covid-19,” said Moreadith.
The Business Alabama article last Thursday focused on risks associated with a genetic characteristic most frequent among ethnic populations — including African Americans — with a connection to tropical regions where malaria is most common. That genetic peculiarity, which helps resist malaria, occurs in less than 9 percent of U.S. African-Americans and less than 2 percent of Caucasians in the U.S., said Moreadith.
Anti-malaria therapies on patients with glucose-6-dehydrogenase deficiency, or G6PD, can cause a disorder making it hard for the lungs to process oxygen.
“The use of anti-malaria drugs in patients with G6PD deficiency can lead to a reaction known as ‘hemolytic anemia,’ where the red blood cells break apart,” said Moreadith. “There are a number of drugs that should be avoided in patients with this deficiency, including hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine, acetaminophen, quinine and some antibiotics known as sulfa drugs.”