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    Belgium backs down from WHO’s coronavirus drug trial

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    Belgium backed down from an international clinical trial for potential Covid-19 treatments citing concerns over the dosage of some of the drugs being used on patients.

    In late March, the start of a French-led clinical study named Discovery was announced in several European countries, including Belgium, France and Spain.

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    But Belgian hospitals participating in that study were reportedly told their patients would be taking part in a wider international study led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) instead, Le Soir reports.

    Ultimately, no patient in Belgium took part in the WHO’s study, named Solidarity, which aimed to use a combination of antiviral and antimalarial drugs on Covid-19 patients across the world in order to assess their effectiveness for treating the disease.

    The decision to pull Belgium out of the Solidarity trials concerned the use of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug which was been largely cited in media, namely after US President Donald Trump touted its use to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

    Recently, Trump claimed he was taking hydroxychloroquine, spurring concern among health professionals as he also falsely claimed that healthcare workers were taking it, despite a lack of sufficient data proving the use of hydroxychloroquine is both safe and effective against Covid-19.

    Federal health authorities cited the high doses of hydroxychloroquine which the study aimed to use as a central reason for its decision to back down from the multinational trail.

    “The dosage was questioned by some ethical committees and several investigators decided not to expose patients to this dose of hydroxychloroquine, and to boycott this branch of the study,” said the cabinet of Federal Health Minister Maggie De Block, according to Le Soir.

    According to the WHO, over 100 countries are taking part in the trial, which aside from hydroxychloroquine, will test drugs used for Ebola, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis in randomized, computer-allocated combinations.

    The federal health cabinet also said that Belgium decided to pull out from the study because the WHO required participating states to act as sponsor of the study, something which the cabinet said Belgium “never does.”

    Typically, a sponsor has responsibility for launching, financing or managing the clinical trial, but has no part in the actual clinical investigation.

    Gabriela Galindo
    The Brussels Times