Scientists have halted a large UK trial exploring the use of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus patients after initial results showed no evidence of benefit.
The drug has received widespread attention as a potential Covid-19 treatment after it was championed by Donald Trump, despite scepticism over its effectiveness.
“We reviewed the data and concluded there is no evidence of a beneficial effect of hydroxychloroquine in patients hospitalised with Covid, and decided to stop enrolling patients to the hydroxychloroquine arm with immediate effect,” Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor who is co-leading the so-called RECOVERY trial, said.
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“This is not a treatment [for Covid-19].”
Mr Landray added: “This result should change medical practice worldwide. We can now stop using a drug that is useless.”
The decision to end the trial came after an influential study which found the drug increased the risk of death in coronavirus patients was withdrawn this week, adding to confusion surrounding its potential use.
The Lancet medical journal pulled the study after three of its authors retracted it, citing concerns about the quality and veracity of data used in the research.
In response to the study being pulled, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said it would resume its hydroxychloroquine trials after pausing them following the research’s publication.
The three authors of the study said Surgisphere, the company which provided the data, would not transfer the dataset for an independent review and therefore they could “no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.”
Mr Landray, who is a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Oxford, said there had been “huge speculation and uncertainty” over the potential use of hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus treatment.
However, he said there had been “an absence of reliable information from large randomised trials” until now.
The professor added preliminary results from the RECOVERY trial, which was a randomised trial, were clear that the drug did not reduce the risk of death among hospitalised patients with Covid-19.
“If you’re admitted to hospital, don’t take hydroxychloroquine,” Mr Landray said.
Additional reporting by Reuters