Conservative approach taken

Security samples A pathology staff member swabbing the mouth of a foreign security guard for signs of Covid-19 at a private lab in Jalan Mega Mendung, Kuala Lumpur.

PETALING JAYA: It is only the new enrollment of patients for hydroxychloroquine treatment under the Covid-19 global trial that has been temporarily suspended, says the World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to Malaysia.

Dr Jacqueline Lo Ying-Ru, Head of Mission and WHO representative to Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore, clarified that patients who had previously enrolled under the trial would finish their hydroxychloroquine treatment.

“Taking a conservative approach, WHO has temporarily suspended the enrollment of patients in the hydroxychloroquine arm of the Solidarity Trial. The other arms of the trial are continuing as normal.

“Those patients previously enrolled under hydroxychloroquine treatment should continue to receive hydroxychloroquine until they finish their course of treatment,” she said in a statement to The Star.

This change, she said, had been made in light of recent publications on the safety and efficacy of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for patients with Covid-19.

Medical journal The Lancet had earlier reported that patients receiving hydroxychloroquine had increased death rates.

Following the publication of the report, the WHO said it would be temporarily halting clinical trials that used hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19 patients in its Solidarity Trial.

“A final decision on what will be done next is expected by mid-June,” said Dr Lo.

Asked about concerns over the continued use of hydroxychloroquine for previously enrolled patients, Dr Lo said their safety were being closely monitored under the trials.

“During clinical trials, the safety and effectiveness of the drugs being tested are constantly monitored. It is not unusual for changes to be made as trials go on and more data come in.

“Clinical trials have stringent safety monitoring and oversight, and procedures in advance that dictate reporting and management of adverse events.

“For now, Malaysia will still use the drug within the Solidarity Trial but with caution and patient monitoring. Any patient showing side effects will be taken off the drug,” she said.

The drug, she added, continued to be accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria.

Nearly 3,500 patients from 17 countries have been enrolled in the Solidarity Trial, which was launched by WHO.

The trial would compare the safety and efficacy of four treatment protocols using different combinations of the drugs Remdesivir, Lopinavir/Ritonavir, Interferon beta, Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine.

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