French Covid-19 drug trials may resume

Study that prompted World Health Organisation to halt trials of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus called into question

4 June 2020
By Connexion journalist

France's medical watchdog is considering whether to restart clinical trials on hydroxychloroquine after questions were raised over research that claimed the anti-malaria drug showed no benefit for coronavirus patients, and even increased the likelihood of death.

The Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament (ANSM) is to re-examine its position on the trials, after prestigious medical journal The Lancet this week acknowledged "important" questions had been raised over the data used in research behind a peer-reviewed article it published, that had prompted authorities in France to call a halt to all studies of the drug as a potential treatment for Covid-19.

The article had also prompted the World Health Organisation to change its position on hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment. One of the drug’s foremost champions is French doctor, Didier Raoult.

The Lancet said it had concerns about a database used to look at how older drugs, including hydroxychloroquine, may work as a treatment for the new coronavirus.

"Although an independent audit of the provenance and validity of the data has been commissioned by the authors ... and is ongoing, with results expected very shortly, we are issuing an 'Expression of Concern' to alert readers to the fact that serious scientific questions have been brought to our attention," The Lancet said in a statement on Tuesday.

An Expression of Concern from an academic journal indicates that the publication considers research potentially problematic.

A separate study, published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, concluded that hydroxychloroquine - taken by US President Donald Trump as a precaution after White House staff were diagnosed with coronavirus - was no better than a placebo at preventing patients contracting the disease.

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