June 20, 2020 / 4:24 PM / 21 days ago

U.S. halts test of Trump-touted hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients

FILE PHOTO: The drug hydroxychloroquine, pushed by U.S. President Donald Trump and others in recent months as a possible treatment to people infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is displayed by a pharmacist at the Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, U.S., May 27, 2020. REUTERS/George Frey/File Photo

(Reuters) - The U.S. National Institutes of Health said on Saturday it has halted a clinical trial to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

The study found that hydroxychloroquine, which President Donald Trump has frequently touted a possible treatment, did not provide any benefit to the patients, even though it did no harm, NIH said in a statement.

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization said testing of hydroxychloroquine in its large multi-country trial of treatments for COVID-19 patients had been halted after new data and studies showed no benefit.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration revoked its emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 on Monday.

Trump had promoted the drug as a potential treatment, saying in March it could turn out to be “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine” when used in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin.

Last month, in a surprise announcement, Trump said he was taking a course of hydroxychloroquine as a preventative after two White House aides tested positive for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

NIH announced its trial of hydroxychloroquine, which is used to treat malaria and rheumatoid conditions such as arthritis, in April.

Reporting by Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Marguerita Choy

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