France banned the use of hydroxychloroquine for treating the coronavirus a week after Trump said he was taking the drug

The French government on Wednesday banned the use of Hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19. GEORGE FREY/AFP via Getty Images
  • France has banned the use of hydroxychloroquine for treating the coronavirus, reversing a March order that allowed the drug – typically used to treat malaria and lupus – to be used to treat COVID-19.
  • The World Health Organisation on Monday announced it was temporarily suspending the use of the drug in an ongoing trial.
  • There is no clinical evidence that the drug is successful in preventing or treating the novel coronavirus.
  • US President Donald Trump, who has championed the drug, said last week he was taking the drug as a preventative measure.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The French government on Wednesday banned the use of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19, reversing a previous order from March that allowed the anti-malarial drug to be used as an experimental treatment for the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The change, reported first by Reuters, is effective immediately. Hydroxychloroquine – approved the US Food and Drug Administration in 1955 – is typically used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and malaria.

On Monday, the World Health Organisation announced it was temporarily suspending the drug’s use in an ongoing trial over efficacy and safety concerns. The chief scientist of the WHO said the committee in charge of overseeing the trial, known as the “Solidarity” international clinical trial, said it decided to “err on the side of caution and suspend enrollment into the hydroxychloroquine arm.”

Officials stressed that the WHO halt was only temporary and part of standard practice. The commission would meet in two weeks to determine whether to push forward with hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for the disease, the WHO said.

The cancellation of France’s March order was announced in the government’s official bulletin and confirmed in a statement by the health ministry, Reuters reported. The new order did not make note of Monday’s WHO trial suspension.

As Business Insider previously reported, hydroxychloroquine has been the subject of great debate in the US after President Donald Trump mentioned it as a possible treatment or preventative measure for the virus despite a lack of clinical evidence to suggest it’s effective.

The largest study of the drug conducted so far conducted by The Lancet, a British medical journal, found that coronavirus patients receiving hydroxychloroquine had an increased risk of an irregular heartbeat and death. The study looked at patients over the span of four months and across six continents.

The FDA has warned against using the drug “outside of the hospital setting or a clinical trial due to risk of heart rhythm problems.”

Still, the president told reporters at a press briefing on May 18 that he had been taking it daily as a preventative measure. As The New York Times reported, Trump has a “small” financial link to a French company that manufactures the drug.

Two other studies, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association, found no difference in the outcomes of coronavirus patients who were given the anti-malaria drug vs. patients who were not.