VA hospitals mostly drop hydroxychloroquine as coronavirus treatment

VA hospitals mostly drop hydroxychloroquine as coronavirus treatment
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The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has almost completely stopped prescribing an anti-malaria drug touted by President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse panel approves 0.5B defense policy bill House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate House panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on 'incentives' to attack US troops MORE to veterans with COVID-19 after studies questioned its efficacy in treating the disease. 

VA hospitals “ratcheted” down the use of hydroxychloroquine as other treatments became available, Secretary Robert WilkieRobert Leon WilkieWilkie: Union exploiting COVID-19 crisis for contract gains Fauci hints at new approach to COVID-19 testing Why Veterans Affairs workers don't trust the Trump administration MORE told Congress on Thursday. It was prescribed only three times last week. 

Wilkie previously told Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerOvernight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday Top intelligence officials to brief Gang of Eight on Thursday Over 1700 veterans ask Senate to pass statehood bill MORE (D-N.Y.) that the VA treated 1,300 veterans with the drug.

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He defended the department’s use of hydroxychloroquine Thursday during a House Appropriations Veterans Affairs subcommittee hearing.

“Even though I am not a medical person — I'm a military person — I understand that there has to be hope. You can't look at a patient and say we can't give you hope,” Wilkie said. 

“Everyone is learning on this in real time and we have followed FDA guidelines on this,” he added.

The VA is now mostly using remdesivir and convalescent plasma, Wilkie said, after studies showed the treatments had a positive effect in COVID-19 patients. 

“We ratcheted that down as we brought more treatments on online and I expect that trend to continue in the future but we will our mission was to preserve and protect life,” he said. 

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciTrump's focus scattered amid multiple crises SC beach linked to hundreds of coronavirus cases as it braces for 4th of July tourists The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Stagwell President Mark Penn says Trump is losing on fighting the virus; Fauci says U.S. 'going in the wrong direction' in fight against virus MORE, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and member of the White House coronavirus task force, told CNN this week the data is now clear that hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work to treat COVID-19. 

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"There was suspicion of that for a while, but as data comes in, it becomes more clear," Fauci said.

A study of 96,000 COVID-19 patients published last week found patients who took the drug had a higher risk of death than those who did not. 

People who took the drug also were also more likely to experience heart problems. The World Health Organization temporarily paused its clinical trial of the drug as a COVID-19 treatment after the study was released. 

As drug companies race to develop a treatment for COVID-19, doctors and scientists have looked to existing drugs that make be effective at treating the disease. 

The most promising so far has been remdesivir — a drug that was developed to treat Ebola but was found ineffective. Limited studies have shown the drug speeds the time to recovery for some COVID-19 patients.