Update: On June 3, the World Health Organization announced it was resuming the clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine, after a study that raised serious concerns about the drug was called into question. The study has since been retracted. To learn more, read our new story about the study’s retraction here.
The World Health Organization announced Sunday that it is pausing trials of hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug that President Donald Trump said he took as a possible preventative COVID-19 treatment, despite his own government’s warnings about the drug’s potentially life-threatening side effects.
The WHO’s decision came after scientists from six continents linked the drug to higher death rates in a massive study published Friday by the Lancet journal.
The WHO has been working with hospitals in 35 countries to find a cure for COVID-19 under what’s called the Solidarity study. It has enrolled 3,500 patients from 17 countries to undergo clinical trials, testing various drugs, including hydroxychloroquine.
“The executive group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity study… while the safety data is reviewed,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said during a news conference Monday. “The other arms of the trial are continuing.”
The director-general made the announcement after the Lancet study, which reviewed data from 96,000 patients and found that taking hydroxychloroquine increased the risk of dying in coronavirus patients by over 35%. The drug also more than doubled the risk of heart problems, according to the study.
Despite inconclusive studies on the malaria drug, Trump had been pushing hydroxychloroquine as a potential miracle cure for the COVID-19. There is currently no cure or treatment for the novel virus.
Trump has tweeted about the drug at least a dozen times since March, according to the Trump Twitter Archive, which shows both live and deleted tweets from the president. His tweets include proclamations about the drug’s potential to be a “game changer” in medical history as well as denying that it kills people.
The president also said at a press conference Monday that he was taking it to protect himself from the deadly virus.
“I happen to be taking it," Trump said. "I’m taking it, hydroxychloroquine [...] Because I think it’s good [...] I’ve heard a lot of good stories."
He said Wednesday that he was likely finishing his regimen by Thursday or Friday, and said in an interview on Sunday that he had stopped taking the drug.
Trump’s announcement came during a Memorial Day weekend when he pushed the country to act against the advice of medical experts in a slew of tweets.
He also drew criticism after golfing at his Sterling, Virginia, course on Saturday and Sunday, even as the US COVID-19 death toll approached 100,000.
Trump lashed out at critics and the media on Twitter all weekend, especially those who criticized his hitting the links.
Trump also called for the reopening of schools, despite more than 40 states closing them for the rest of the 2019–20 academic year:
And he is pushing for the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, to take place on the scheduled date in August, despite Gov. Roy Cooper’s hesitations to confirm the date and place of the event:
Cooper responded on Twitter that the state will "review its plans" and will "rely on data and science to protect our state's public health."