May 27 (UPI) -- Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that hydroxychloroquine, a drug President Donald Trump said he has taken to ward off the coronavirus, is not an effective treatment based on the latest scientific data.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made his most definitive statement yet against the drug once touted by Trump as a possible treatment.
"The scientific data is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy," Fauci, the White House's top infectious disease expert, said.
His statement comes on the heels of France banning the drug altogether Wednesday and the internationally respected science journal The Lancet publishing a 96,000-patient study that concluded hydroxychloroquine had no effect on COVID-19. But that study was retracted by the authors on Thursday over questions of the validity of the data.
France's decision was published in the country's official legal journal, ending the drug's use as a weapon in the pandemic just weeks after French epidemiologist Dr. Didier Raoult recommended it as a key tool against the coronavirus disease.
Tuesday, the French High Council of Public Health and National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products said hydroxychloroquine has shown higher rates of death and cardiac arrhythmia in COVID-19 patients.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran ordered the assessments last weekend after the study in The Lancet. The study also reported increased death rates and irregular heartbeat among COVID-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine.
The World Health Organization said Monday it paused medical trials involving the drug.
On Wednesday, Mike Ryan, the executive director of WHO's emergencies program, said there's no evidence hydroxychloroquine and related drug chloroquine work to treat COVID-19.
"There is no empirical evidence at this point that these drugs work in this case either for treatment or for prophylaxis," he said. "We do not advise the use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19 outside randomized control trials or under appropriate close clinical supervision subject to whatever national regulatory authorities have decided."
Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have been used as anti-malarial drugs for decades and are sometimes used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Trump and others have said hydroxychloroquine could be a potential treatment for COVID-19 or to prevent infection. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Heart Association, however, have warned that using it without medical supervision can lead to a greater risk of cardiac arrest.
This story has been updated to reflect that a study published in The Lancet was retracted.