The World Health Organization announced Wednesday that it is set to resume an international trial testing the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19 after the organization had previously suspended the trial over safety concerns.
The decision to resume came after problems were discovered with a leading medical journal's study on the drug that claimed the drug was ineffective against the coronavirus and increased the risk of death in patients.
That study, published in the Lancet on May 22, has since been criticized by more than 100 scientists and clinicians for its use of suspect patient data provided by a tiny U.S. company, Surgisphere, which didn't match with government reporting. The journal's study was also co-authored by Surgisphere's chief executive Sapan Desai.
The journal was forced to issue an "expression of concern" on Tuesday, "to alert readers to the fact that serious scientific questions have been brought to our attention" regarding the study.
WHO pushes restart
On Wednesday, after its safety monitoring committee cleared the way, the WHO announced it would resume the testing.
"On the basis of the available mortality data, the members of the committee recommended that there are no reasons to modify the trial protocol," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a news conference. "The executive group received this recommendation and endorsed the continuation of all arms of Solidarity Trial including hydroxychloroquine."
Based on available data, the #COVID19 Solidarity Trial Data Safety & Monitoring Committee recommended there are no… https://t.co/NpHeFbqMIm— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus)1591209630.0
Hydroxychloroquine is one of four drugs being tested as potential treatment for COVID-19 in the Solidarity Trial, which Tedros announced has enrolled 3,500 patients from 35 countries.
Though the testing is set to resume, the WHO noted that the restart was not an endorsement of the drug.
"We hope that the ongoing trials will continue until we have definitive answers," said Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO's chief scientist, according to Politico.