France has become one of the first countries in the world to ban medical professionals from prescribing and using hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19 patients. This happened after serious health concerns were raised regarding the use of what was previously hailed as a miracle drug.
Many people have wondered why the country has suddenly changed its mind about the drug after being one of those to champion its use back in March.
France is among the European nations that moved to halt the usage of the drug on Wednesday. Hydroxychloroquine, which was previously developed as an anti-malaria drug but has caught the spotlight after US President Donald Trump has repeatedly promoted its use as therapy for COVID-19 symptoms.
Trump has even dubbed the drug as a "game-changer" in the battle to control and end the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aside from France, Belgium and Italy also imposed a complete cessation of using the drug for COVID-19 treatment. This is after the World Health Organization has decided on Monday to put a large trial of the drug on pause due to concerns about its safety.
According to Reuters, an email sent to them by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) stated that while investigators are still on the process of assessing risks associated with using the anti-malaria drug to treat COVID-19, all trial will be placed under intensive review.
Moreover, the news outlet stated that the sudden move by the officials of those countries that received the hardest hit of the pandemic shone a light that the governments are still grappling to search for a treatment for the disease and mitigate the spread of the virus.
Hydroxychloroquine poses risks
However, in a report by the CBS News, recent studies have raised several safety issues regarding the use of hydroxychloroquine. Based on The Lancet, a British medical journal, COVID-19 patients who have been treated with the anti-malaria drug are more likely to die after experiencing irregular heartbeats.
According to Forbes, the French health ministry has announced the cancellation of a decree allowing the use of hydroxychloroquine in specific situations concerning COVID-19 patients. The said decree has been in place for nearly two months before the announcement.
On top of this, French and Italian biotechnology firms and medicine agencies have already advised against the use of hydroxychloroquine aside from clinical trials. Belgium also stated that trials which aim to evaluate the drug should take into account its potential risks.
Moreover, health authorities from Italy, which have also previously faced one of the most devastating blows by COVID-19, came to the conclusion that the risks of using hydroxychloroquine outweighed its benefits in fighting the disease, thus, a ban outside clinical trials have also been placed.
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration of the US has still not made any move or comments on the European nations' decision to ban the drug. It can be recalled that the FDA has previously allowed the use of hydroxychloroquine in an emergency-use authorization, however, in April they have also cautioned of the possible safety issues that using the drug may pose.