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Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization is temporarily pausing tests of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment in order to review safety concerns, the agency's director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday.

Why it matters: The decision comes after a retrospective review published in The Lancet found that coronavirus patients who took hydroxychloroquine or its related drug chloroquine were more likely to die or develop an irregular heart rhythm that can lead to sudden cardiac death, compared to those who did nothing.

  • The medical journal's review consisted of 96,000 hospitalized patients diagnosed with the coronavirus in six continents, the largest analysis of medical records on the drug, between Dec. 20, 2019, and April 14, 2020.
  • Tedros said that an independent executive panel "agreed to review a comprehensive analysis and critical appraisal of all evidence available globally" regarding hydroxychloroquine in order to determine whether it should continue to be used in WHO's Solidarity Trial, a global effort to test experimental coronavirus treatments.

The big picture: President Trump has touted the drug as a potential "game-changer" and revealed last week that he had been taking it as a preventative against the coronavirus after consulting with the White House doctor. This came even after the FDA warned that the unproven drug should only be taken in hospitals because of the risk of heart complications.

What they're saying:

"The Executive Group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity Trial while the safety data is reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board. The other arms of the trial are continuing. This concern relates to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in COVID-19. I wish to reiterate that these drugs are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria."
— Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Go deeper

Analysis: Steroid treatment reduced deaths for seriously ill COVID-19 patients

Corticosteroids, including Dexamethasone, could reduce mortality among critically ill COVID-19 patients. Photo: Xinhua/Jon Super via Getty Images

Data from seven studies with about 1,700 seriously ill COVID-19 patients found that corticosteroids reduce mortality by about one-third, according to analysis published Wednesday in JAMA.

Why it matters: Corticosteroids, which are anti-inflammatory drugs, could likely be a low-cost, first line of defense for critically ill coronavirus patients.

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

Sep 2, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus is the leading cause of death for law enforcement in 2020

Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

Coronavirus infections contracted in the line of duty are the leading cause of death among police officers so far in 2020, resulting in at least 100 fatalities, the Washington Post reports.

The big picture: COVID-19 was deadlier than gun violence, car accidents and all other causes combined, data compiled by the Officer Down Memorial Page and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund shows.