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Schumer demands answers in use of unproven coronavirus drug on veterans

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden and the new Congress must protect Americans from utility shutoffs 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate Democrats looking to speed through Senate impeachment trial MORE (D-N.Y.) is calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide further answers on the use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of veterans for coronavirus.

“There are concerns that they are using this drug when the medical evidence says it doesn’t help and could hurt,” Schumer told The Associated Press, calling on VA Secretary Robert WilkieRobert WilkieBiden VA pick faces 'steep learning curve' at massive agency Two headstones with swastikas removed from Texas veterans cemetery Biden nominee: VA staff hampered by 'mismanagement' MORE to disclose whether the Trump administration or the White House pressured the agency to use the drug. He also said Wilkie must address a recent analysis of VA data suggesting patients were more likely to die when treated with the drug than with standard care.

Schumer told the AP he remains concerned about whether the VA has conducted “clandestine studies to determine whether hydroxychloroquine was effective without their permission.”

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“These are people who risked their lives for us,” he said. “They should be treated only with the utmost dignity, respect and high standards of care.”

President TrumpDonald TrumpFacebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Sasse, in fiery op-ed, says QAnon is destroying GOP Section 230 worked after the insurrection, but not before: How to regulate social media MORE spent weeks promoting the drug, frequently prescribed for lupus and arthritis patients, as a possible treatment for the virus, and former Health and Human Services official Richard Bright alleged in a whistleblower complaint last week that the administration explored flooding virus hot spots in New York and New Jersey with it.

Wilkie has said the drug was only administered to consenting patients where medically appropriate and denied hydroxychloroquine was tested on veterans, but has declined to say whether the VA has developed or issued guidance for usage of the drug to patients or doctors. 

"VA has used hydroxychloroquine for years to treat a number of non-COVID related conditions, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and the bulk of the order referenced will be used for those purposes," a VA spokesperson told The Hill in a statement.

In certain cases, medical providers and patients want to try hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, and FDA guidance, which VA follows, permits that.

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Former VA Secretary David ShulkinDavid Jonathon ShulkinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Congress slogs toward COVID-19 relief, omnibus deal A crisis that unites veterans OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Biden taps ex-Obama chief for VA | Shutdown looms amid standoff | SCOTUS rules on rape cases in military MORE also urged caution on use of the drug Sunday, tweeting “with studies showing no benefit, VA should restrict use exclusively to clinical trials.”