FDA Revokes Emergency Use of Hydroxychloroquine

Damian McNamara

June 15, 2020

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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revoked its decision from March 28 allowing use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat people hospitalized with COVID-19 under an emergency use authorization (EUA).

"Based on its ongoing analysis of the EUA and emerging scientific data, the FDA determined that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are unlikely to be effective in treating COVID-19 for the authorized uses in the EUA," the agency announced in a June 15 statement.

The FDA also warned today that the use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine may have a potential drug interaction with the investigational antiviral drug remdesivir that limits its effectiveness against COVID-19.

Remdesivir was granted emergency use authorization by the FDA on May 1.

"Based on a recently completed nonclinical laboratory study, the FDA is revising the fact sheet for healthcare providers that accompanies the drug to state that co-administration of remdesivir and chloroquine phosphate or hydroxychloroquine sulfate is not recommended as it may result in reduced antiviral activity of remdesivir. The agency is not aware of instances of this reduced activity occurring in the clinical setting but is continuing to evaluate all data related to remdesivir," the FDA said in a news release.

Controversy Over Hydroxychloroquine

Even with such federal permission, since late March the use of these two agents has been mired in controversy.

President Donald J. Trump promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat Americans with COVID-19, while scientific studies raised questions about their safety and effectiveness. Recent research, for example, pointed to elevated cardiovascular risks, as reported by Medscape Medical News.

The FDA acknowledged this recent evidence. "Additionally, in light of ongoing serious cardiac adverse events and other potential serious side effects, the known and potential benefits of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine no longer outweigh the known and potential risks for the authorized use."

The full suspension of the EUA follows a warning the agency issued on April 24. The FDA's Safety Communication cautioned against use of the two agents outside of a hospital setting, citing an increase in outpatient prescriptions and  "reports of serious heart rhythm problems."

"While additional clinical trials continue to evaluate the potential benefit of these drugs in treating or preventing COVID-19, we determined the emergency use authorization was no longer appropriate," based on a rigorous assessment by scientists in our Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER)," Patrizia Cavazzoni, MD, acting director of CDER, noted in the FDA statement.

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