If only hydroxychloroquine could cure Trump Derangement Syndrome

Not every Democrat has COVID-19; but they all – uniformly – apparently suffer from TDS, better known as Trump Derangement Syndrome. Symptoms of this wide-spread affliction include the inability to ever concede, or even imagine, that President Trump might possibly be right about something, sometime.  

The most idiotic recent outbreak of this highly communicable disease surrounds the argument over chloroquine and its less toxic derivative hydroxychloroquine. In mid-March, as the coronavirus surged, President Trump mentioned that the latter anti-malaria drug appeared to have “tremendous promise” as a therapy for treating COVID-19 patients. He said it “could be a game-changer, and maybe not,” acknowledging that the jury was still out.

Trump noted that the drug has been available for decades to treat malaria and thus its side-effects are well known. It is also inexpensive and available from numerous suppliers, all of which might recommend it to our pragmatic president.

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Trump’s hopeful assertion was widely mocked by the liberal media, who did not welcome the president’s optimism. And yet, the New York Times reported at the time that hospitals across the country were loading up on the drug, responding to reports that in some instances it was saving lives. The Times noted that, “Laboratory studies have found that they prevent the coronavirus from invading cells, suggesting that the drugs could help prevent or limit the infection.”

Reviewing the available literature about the efficacy of the anti-malaria treatments, The Journal of Critical Care on March 10 described chloroquine as “widely used, safe and cheap, [and] effective in viral infections in pre-clinical studies.”

The Journal included reports from Chinese trials finding “Chloroquine phosphate… had demonstrated marked efficacy and acceptable safety in treating COVID-19 associated pneumonia in multicentre clinical trials conducted in China.” Further, both the Dutch and Italian equivalents of the CDC have suggested using chloroquine to treat severe infections requiring admission to the hospital and oxygen therapy.

So, it wasn’t as though Trump was making it up; there were indeed indications that the drugs might help. Why, then, the blow-back?

First, our health agencies are extremely cautious, and ponderous. One of the reasons our coronavirus testing was so chaotic and insufficient was that the FDA delayed granting “emergency use authorization” for making the tests and then the CDC insisted on controlling the manufacture of the kits, all of which prolonged the process.   

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Caution is, of course, a good thing when prescribing drugs or promising cures. But as thousands are dying from a plague that has no known remedy, maybe it is worth fast-tracking studies and approvals, and allowing people and doctors the chance to experiment with a drug that is widely known and considered safe for most people.

Dr. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci: Nominating conventions may be able to go on as planned The battle of COVID in the 'quiet war' on China Dolphins owner: 'We're planning to have fans in the stadium' MORE, a senior member of the White House task force and a respected epidemiologist, has cautioned that hydroxychloroquine may not be a “knockout drug,” adding that “We still need to do the definitive studies to determine whether any intervention, not just this one, is truly safe and effective.”

He is right, of course, which is why President Trump has pushed the FDA to accelerate its testing of the therapy; in both New York State and Detroit, large-scale clinical trials are getting underway.

Meanwhile, the press has had a field day, portraying Trump’s optimism about the drugs as reckless, ill-informed and even self-serving. The Times in mid-March ran with this headline: “With Minimal Evidence, Trump Asks F.D.A. to Study Malaria Drugs for Coronavirus,” even as in that article it noted that “Doctors in China, South Korea and France have reported that the treatments seem to help.”

The reporters are worried that there have not been “the kind of large, carefully controlled studies that would…[prove] these drugs work on a significant scale.” Right, but such a trial in the midst of a global pandemic could be viewed as a luxury we don’t have.

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More recently, scolds at the Times described Trump’s optimism as “a striking example of his brazen willingness to distort and outright defy expert opinion and scientific evidence.” They also dismissed “A small trial by Chinese researchers” because it had not been “peer reviewed” and reports of the drug’s usefulness from China and France because outcomes had not been compared with those of a control group.

Unrepentant, the president has continued to mention hydroxychloroquine, possibly encouraged by more anecdotal evidence of its effectiveness and also real-life examples of people who say their lives have been saved by the drug. A Democratic state representative from Detroit credits her recent recovery from the virus to her use of the anti-malarial drug in combination with antibiotics, and thanked the president for making public the possible benefits of hydroxychloroquine.

Recently, too, the American Thoracic Society, a group specializing in treating respiratory diseases, issued guidelines endorsing hydroxychloroquine for seriously ill COVID-19 patients with pneumonia.  

None of that has swayed the media. It’s almost as though Trump’s critics don’t want hydroxychloroquine to work. It is almost as though they hope this pandemic rolls endlessly forward, depressing the economy and undermining President Trump’s chances of being reelected.

MSNBC’s Mika BrzezinskiMika Emilie BrzezinskiThe Memo: Trump tweets cross into new territory Brzezinski: White House press secretary 'is lying' in her defense of Trump's Scarborough tweets McEnany defends Trump for promoting conspiracy theory about death of Scarborough aide MORE hit a new TDS low, even for her, when she speculated that perhaps President Trump had a “financial tie” to the drug. Mika thinks the president may be touting the drug for personal gain.

Perhaps the cynical talking head doesn’t understand how high the stakes are for this president, and for the world. President Trump is hoping, praying, that we can find a cure and save lives, bring the economy back to life and get the public back to work.

Isn’t Mika hoping for that too?

 Liz Peek is a former partner of major bracket Wall Street firm Wertheim & Company. Follow her on Twitter @lizpeek.