WHO Pauses Hydroxychloroquine Trial Amid Safety Concerns Day After Trump Says He Stopped Taking Controversial Medicine

The World Health Organization announced Monday that it was pausing an ongoing trial of how hydroxychloroquine impacts hospitalized COVID-19 patients over safety concerns of the anti-malaria drug—medicine that President Donald Trump said he was taking for at least two weeks.

A "temporary pause" of the WHO's hydroxychloroquine trial was instituted while "safety data is reviewed," said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The trial halt comes the day after Trump revealed in an interview with Sinclair Broadcasting that he was no longer taking the unproven coronavirus treatment and prevention method that health experts and officials—including within the Trump administration—have warned not to take outside hospital or clinical trial settings because of its potentially deadly side effects.

The president has repeatedly batted down health warnings while doling out positive—and inaccurate—praise for the drug.

WHO halts Hydroxychloroquine trial days after trump
A pharmacy tech pours out pills of Hydroxychloroquine at Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, on May 20, 2020. President Donald Trump announced May 18 he has been taking hydroxychloroquine for almost two weeks as a preventative measure against COVID-19. Photo by GEORGE FREY/AFP/Getty

"Finished, just finished. And by the way, I'm still here," Trump told Sinclair's Sharyl Attkisson. "I've heard tremendous reports about it... Many people think it saved their lives."

Trump first disclosed he was taking hydroxychloroquine on May 18, despite the repeated warnings about the drug for coronavirus. The Food and Drug Administration has approved its usage for malaria but warned against using it for coronavirus treatment or prevention and that it should only be used by patients who are hospitalized or part of an ongoing clinical trial. Hydroxychloroquine could cause abnormal heart rhythms, among other things, the FDA cautions.

Trump's doctor, Sean Conley, stated last week that after discussing hydroxychloroquine with the president, "we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relevant risks."

In his announcement of the trial pause, Ghebreyesus echoed U.S. health officials' guidance not to self-administer the drug.

"I wish to reiterate that these drugs are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria," Ghebreyesus said.