France, Italy, Belgium act to stop use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 on safety fears
by Matthias Blamont/Reuters
PARIS (Reuters) – France, Italy and Belgium acted to halt the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat patients suffering from COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, amid questions about the safety of the generic anti-malaria drug.
France on Wednesday cancelled a decree allowing hospital doctors to dispense the medicine, while the Italian Medicine Agency (AIFA) suspended authorization to use hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 outside clinical trials.
Belgium’s medicine agency warned against using the drug to treat the virus any more except within ongoing clinical registered trials. It said trials aiming to evaluate the drug should also take potential risks into consideration.
The sudden changes highlight the challenge for governments as they scramble to find ways to treat patients and control a virus that has spread rapidly around the world over the past three months, killing more than 350,000 and infecting millions.
It also illustrates at least a temporary about-face for regulators on a drug that at the outset of the pandemic had been seen as a promising treatment option.
The moves by three of the countries hardest hit by coronavirus infections and deaths follow a World Health Organization decision on Monday to pause a large trial of hydroxychloroquine due to safety concerns.