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France becomes first country to ban the use of hydroxychloroquine for treatment of COVID-19

Large studies are casting doubt on the controversial drug

Photo by GEORGE FREY/AFP via Getty Images

The French government has banned the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, making France the first nation to do so since the start of the global pandemic.

The decision was passed down in a decree Wednesday morning by the Ministry of Solidarity and Health, which revoked previous authorization for the drug's use by doctors and in clinical trials.

"Whether [in doctors offices] in the cities or in the hospital, this ... should not be prescribed for patients with COVID-19," the ministry said in a statement following the decree, according to Politico.

The decision followed shortly after France's public health watchdog warned against using the drug and just two days after the World Health Organization announced it had suspended a global trial of the drug over safety concerns.

A study published last week in the Lancet also cast doubt on the efficacy of the drug. In the study, researchers were "unable to confirm a benefit" for the coronavirus patients and added that its use resulted in "decreased in-hospital survival and an increased frequency of ventricular arrhythmias."

Hydroxychloroquine, a widely used antimalarial drug often touted by President Donald Trump as a possible treatment for COVID-19, has been the subject of controversy since Trump had the U.S Food and Drug Administration fast-track it for use against the coronavirus in late March.

At the time, public health officials in the U.S. warned that evidence of the drug's effective was anecdotal at best.

While some patients and doctors around the country have reported the drug to be life-saving, large-scale clinical trials have yet to scientifically confirm the drug's effectiveness.

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