The World Health Organisation (WHO) has suspended clinical trial on the use of Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19 following new data suggesting that the drugs increase mortality among patients.
At a virtual meeting, yesterday to mark Africa Day, the Director-General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, said the suspension was necessary in order to evaluate the safety data on the drugs as presented to the health body by the Data Safety Monitoring Board.
He said: “As part of our continued response to the pandemic globally, WHO continues to work aggressively on research and development.
“As you know, more than two months ago, we initiated the Solidarity Trial to evaluate the safety and efficacy of four drugs and drug combinations against COVID-19.
“Over 400 hospitals in 35 countries are actively recruiting patients and nearly 3,500 patients have been enrolled in 17 countries. But on Friday, The Lancet published an observational study on Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine and its effects on COVID-19 patients that have been hospitalised.”
He said the authors reported that among patients receiving the drug, when used alone or with a macrolide, they estimated a higher mortality rate.
He added: “The Executive Group of the Solidarity Trial, representing 10 of the participating countries met on Saturday and has agreed to review a comprehensive analysis and critical appraisal of all evidence available globally.
“The review will consider data collected so far in the Solidarity Trial and in particular robust randomised available data, to adequately evaluate the potential benefits and harms from this drug.”
He explained that the executive group has implemented a temporary pause of the Hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity Trial while the safety data was reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board, stressing that the other arms of the trial are continuing.
Ghebreyesus said: “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. WHO will provide further updates as we know more. And we will continue to work night and day for solutions, science.”
He commended Africa for its push against the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that it has the least burden of the disease compared to other regions of the world.
He said: “So far, although around half of the countries in the region have community transmission, concentrated mainly in major cities, Africa is the least-affected region globally in terms of the number of cases and deaths reported to WHO.
“Africa has just 1.5 per cent of the world’s reported cases of COVID-19 and less than 0.1 per cent of the world’s deaths.
“Of course, these numbers don’t paint the full picture. Testing capacity in Africa is still being ramped up and there is a likelihood that some cases may be missed.
“But even so, Africa appears to have so far been spared the scale of outbreaks we have seen in other regions.”
Madagascar Finds Bodies on Streets, Deploys Doctors, Troops
Madagascar has announced it will dispatch troops and doctors to an eastern town after bodies were found in the streets and where two people died from the virus.
Madagascar’s cabinet held a special meeting on Sunday to discuss the situation in Toamasina, the country’s second-largest city.
The Indian Ocean island nation has registered 527 infections and two deaths, both in Toamasina.
Since Thursday, more than 120 new cases were confirmed and bodies were found in the city’s streets though the cause of death was not clear.
“Doctors must carry out thorough examinations to see if these deaths are caused by another illness… or if they are really due to severe acute respiratory problems, which is the critical form of COVID-19,” the spokesperson for the government’s virus taskforce, Professor Hanta Marie Danielle Vololontiana, said in a national broadcast.
The government will send 150 soldiers to reinforce Toamasina, maintain order and enforce measures against the coronavirus such as mask-wearing and social distancing.
The cabinet also fired Toamasina’s prefect without providing any explanation.
A team was also ordered to distribute a drink based on Artemisia, a plant recognised as a treatment against malaria, which the Malagasy authorities claim cures COVID-19.
The potential benefits of this herbal tea, called COVID-Organics, have not been validated by any scientific study.
The cabinet has also announced an investigation into the death of a doctor in Toamasina.
According to the local press, the victim was hospitalised after contracting COVID-19 and was found dead hanged in his room on Sunday.
229 New COVID-19 Cases Increase Nigeria’s Tally to 8,068
Nigeria has recorded 229 new cases of COVID-19, bringing to 8,068 the total number of confirmed cases in the country.
It has also recorded seven new deaths, taking the toll from 226 to 233 within the last 24 hours.
Announcing this last night, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said Lagos recorded 90 new cases, Katsina 27, Imo 26, Kano 23, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) 14, Plateau 12, Ogun nine, Delta seven, Borno and Rivers five each, Oyo four, Gombe three, Osun two, while Anambra and Bayelsa one each.
It said: “Nigeria’s COVID-19 cases are 8,068. Those discharged are 2,311, while 233 persons have unfortunately lost their lives.”