British regulator says 'COPCOV' hydroxychloroquine trial paused

FILE PHOTO: A health worker holds a box of hydroxychloroquine at the pharmacy of the Nossa Senhora da Conceicao hospital, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Porto Alegre, Brazil, May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Diego Vara

LONDON (Reuters) - An international hydroxychloroquine trial led by the University of Oxford has been paused, Britain’s pharmaceutical regulator said on Wednesday, less than a week after the trial started, amid fresh safety concerns over the drug.

The French government on Wednesday cancelled a decree allowing hospital doctors to administer hydroxychloroquine as a treatment to patients suffering severe forms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) paused a large trial of the malaria drug on COVID-19 patients due to safety concerns. British medical journal The Lancet has reported that patients getting hydroxychloroquine had increased death rates.

“The COPCOV trial, led by the University of Oxford and Wellcome-supported MORU in Bangkok, has been paused,” the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said in a statement about the trial, which started last Thursday.

“All hydroxychloroquine trials in COVID-19 remain under close review,” it added.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Stephen Addison