As the days inside grow long, and the weather gets warmer, people are wishing life would return to normal.
President Donald Trump apparently feels the same way and he has been suggesting medical solutions to the COVID-19 virus during White House press briefings.
On Thu. Mar 19, Trump said that the FDA had approved the treatment of COVID-19 with a drug called hydroxychloroquine, commonly used to treat Malaria.
HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine. The FDA has moved mountains – Thank You! Hopefully they will BOTH (H works better with A, International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents)…..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2020
The FDA responded to the President’s comments by clarifying that they had not approved the drug for use on COVID-19 patients, but that testing was underway.
In subsequent press briefings, President Trump has continued to say that the drug will help those infected by COVID-19.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), reiterated the FDA’s statement about the drug undergoing clinical trials.
While hydroxychloroquine might help with healing from COVID-19, more tests need to be done. Since the President’s initial push to publicize the drug, people across the globe have been trying to purchase or take it.
The drug is commonly used to “treat lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. It’s also used to prevent and treat malaria,” according to healthline.com.
People who have either of the autoimmune deficiencies that the drug treats are having a difficult time getting access to their prescribed medication.
My sister cannot get a refill on her #Lupus medicine – a shortage of hydroxychloroquine (many know as Plaquenil). This shortage is caused directly by POTUS's unfounded claims about these drugs. She needs this to live. She needs this to live. She needs to live.— Catherine Sheehy (@CatPSheehy) March 24, 2020
For those people who do not know the ins and outs of medical naming conventions, the constant push for Americans to seek out “chloroquine” without medical explanation or official approval has led to at least one death in the U.S. and more globally.
In Arizona, a man died and his wife was hospitalized after they ingested fish-tank cleaner called “chloroquine phosphate.”
“I had (the substance) in the house because I used to have koi fish,” the wife, who did not wish to be named, told NBC News. “I saw it sitting on the back shelf and thought, ‘Hey, isn’t that the stuff they’re talking about on TV?’”
She also added that she learned about the drug during one of the President’s press conferences and they ingested the drug, not because they were sick, but as a preventative measure.
In India, “some doctors are hoarding both drugs by writing prescriptions for themselves or family members,” according to Science Magazine.
In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro amplified President Trump’s words, and while the country has increased production of the drug, it has caused panic buying.
In Nigeria, health officials had to warn people to not take the drug after they said that “three people in the country overdosed on the drug, in the wake of President Trump’s comments about using it to treat coronavirus,” according to CNN.
A few people misusing the drug is not new, and it does not mean the drug might not work, but medical professionals warn that more study is needed.
“The [World Health Organization]’s position is clear. Any medication should be based on evidence. We don’t have yet any evidence from any of these trials that would allow WHO to do a formal recommendation. All these are in progress, so it is difficult for us to recommend at this stage that any of the medicine can be of use for the treatment of coronavirus,” Yao told CNN.
In France, Dr. Didier Raoult published a study claiming that he used the drug to treat his patients and that it removed all symptoms of the COVID-19 infection.
However, Science Magazine says “Many scientists have criticized the French trial as riddled with enough methodological flaws to render its findings unreliable or misleading. Biostatisticians from the United Kingdom and Ireland cited a basic failure: Investigators didn’t randomize the groups—essential to ensuring dependable comparisons. They also noted that six of the treated patients were lost to the study, five of whom fared badly—one died, three entered intensive care, and one stopped treatment because of nausea. Yet they were dropped from the analysis, potentially skewing the outcome.”
Ultimately the recommendations from medical professionals are as follows:
- Don’t buy the drug unless you have a prescription
- Wait for medical testing to be done.
- Self-isolate to reduce the spread.
- Trust your doctors.
President Trump’s attempts to solve the crisis are counterproductive to the medical community’s response to COVID-19. While the drug may prove to help heal those who are infected, it is not a vaccine, and having access to it will not slow the spread of the infection or the pressure that the infection is projected to put on global healthcare infrastructure.