US President Donald Trump touted the use of hydroxychloroquine as a means to combat the coronavirus – and the WHO says it doesn’t work – but it didn’t stop a tremendous surge in prescription sales.
Between February and March, an additional 300,000 Americans received a prescription for anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine.
Prescriptions were up by 86 per cent, the new research from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals.
The largest sales surges were in Florida, New Jersey, Hawaii and New York.
Hydroxychloroquine has been touted by the likes of Donald Trump who claimed to have been ingesting it, as well as Clive Palmer who insisted his foundation had bought 32,900,000 doses of it.
“It’s a very strong, powerful medicine. But it doesn’t kill people,” Mr Trump told reporters at the time.
“We have some very good results and some very good tests. What really do we have to lose?”
On Sunday, the World Health Organisation announced it is discontinuing trials in hospitalised patients after the work failed to reduce mortality.
“These interim trial results show that hydroxychloroquine and lopinavir/ritonavir produce little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalised COVID-19 patients when compared to standard of care,” the WHO said in a statement, referring to large multi-country trials that the agency is leading.
“Solidarity trial investigators will interrupt the trials with immediate effect.”
The UN agency said the decision, taken on the recommendation of the trial’s international steering committee, does not affect other studies where those drugs are used for non-hospitalised patients or as a prophylaxis.
Another branch of the WHO-led trial is looking at the potential effect of Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir on COVID-19.
The European Commission on Friday gave remdesivir conditional approval for use after being shown to shorten hospital recovery times.
The solidarity trial started out with five branches looking at possible treatment approaches to COVID-19: standard care; remdesivir; hydroxychloroquine; lopinavir/ritonavir; and lopanivir/ritonavir combined with interferon.