A French pharmacy employee holds up a box of Sanofi’s branded version of hydroxychloroquine

The country that gave birth to the idea of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid-19 is now putting the kibosh on it, according to a news report.

France 24 reported Wednesday that the French government had revoked a decree authorizing hospitals to prescribe the drug for Covid-19 following a warning by authorities there against its use. Much of the in the drug began with the research of Dr. Didier Raoult, a French researcher who published a small study claiming that it was successful in treating the disease. Soon thereafter, President Donald Trump heavily promoted it in the U.S. as well.

But since then, a mounting body of evidence has indicated that the drug is not only ineffective in treating Covid-19, but potentially dangerous as well.

Last week, a study published in The Lancet that compared data on 15,000 patients who received hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with 81,000 who didn’t found no evidence that they were effective in treating the disease, but did find evidence that patients on the drug may have had a higher incidence of heart arrhythmias and death. Another study, published earlier this month in The New England Journal of Medicine, likewise found no benefit from hydroxychloroquine among 1,376 patients with Covid-19 at a hospital in New York. Still another study, analyzing data from 1,438 hospitalized Covid-19 patients, found that the drug did not reduce the rate of patients who died in the hospital.

The Lancet study concluded that data from randomized trials are needed to provide a better picture of hydroxychloroquine’s clinical profile in Covid-19, and randomized studies are currently underway.

The World Health Organization this week suspended the hydroxychloroquine portion of a 3,500-patient trial of multiple drugs in Covid-19 after the paper prompted concerns about its safety.

Nevertheless, Trump’s comments last week that he had been using hydroxychloroquine for two weeks to prevent Covid-19 prompted renewed interest in the drug, with a company that administers prescription savings programs reporting a large increase in traffic to its page about the drug and a significant week-over-week increase in patients filling scripts for it after the remarks.

Photo: Chesnot, Getty Images

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