Schumer demands answers in use of unproven coronavirus drug on veterans

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerFederal judges should be allowed to be Federalist Society members Warren condemns 'horrific' Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests, other senators chime in VA hospitals mostly drop hydroxychloroquine as coronavirus treatment 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 Leon WilkieOn The Money: Trump signs order targeting social media firms' legal protections | 2M more Americans file new jobless claims, pushing total past 40M | White House to forgo summer economic forecast amid COVID-19, breaking precedent Overnight Defense: Trump extends deployment of National Guard troops to aid with coronavirus response | Pentagon considers reducing quarantine to 10 days | Lawmakers push for removal of Nazi headstones from VA cemeteries Overnight Health Care: Sewage testing gives clues of coronavirus | White House says Trump would take hydroxychloroquine again | Trump marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K virus deaths 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 John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points 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 ShulkinSchumer demands answers in use of unproven coronavirus drug on veterans Former Trump VA secretary says staffer found plans to replace him in department copier VA under pressure to ease medical marijuana rules MORE also urged caution on use of the drug Sunday, tweeting “with studies showing no benefit, VA should restrict use exclusively to clinical trials.”