Public/Global Health

Trump pushed health officials to make anti-malaria drugs available as coronavirus treatment: report

President Trump pushed health health officials to make anti-malaria drugs available to treat the coronavirus although they were untested to treat COVID-19, two sources told Reuters

The president told top officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to place focus on the drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as potential treatments, the two sources said.

After pressure from the president, the federal government issued guidance saying doctors had the option to prescribe these drugs, while citing unattributed anecdotes instead of the usual peer-reviewed science. 

The White House in a statement said that Trump had not started a “pressure campaign” but was taking appropriate action. 

“The President’s top priority is the health and safety of the American people which is why he has brought together the federal government and private sector, including doctors, scientists, and medical researchers, for an unprecedented collaboration to expedite vaccine development,” said the statement.

The CDC told Reuters it published the guidance at the request of the coronavirus task force and doctors who “requested CDC review the literature, compose, and post the information as quickly as possible.”

“The agency did,” the statement said.

An NIH spokeswoman said the agency was “not the source of the content.”

The guidance said it was reviewed by the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Division of Viral Diseases.

The FDA said in a statement to Reuters that it acted correctly when it made an emergency order for the anti-malaria drugs to be prescribed and distributed. 

“It was determined, based on the scientific evidence available, that it is reasonable to believe that the specific drugs may be effective in treating COVID-19, and that, given there are no adequate, approved, or available alternative treatments, the known and potential benefits to treat this serious or life-threatening virus outweigh the known and potential risks,” the FDA statement said.

Trump has voiced support for the drugs, specifically on his Twitter. His supporters say they approve of using the drugs in a pandemic, as there is no proven treatment for COVID-19.

But research has shown that specific people who use the drugs can experience an interrupted heartbeat or a cardiac arrhythmia and that the drugs “may pose particular risk to critically ill persons,” according to Reuters.

Tags anti-malaria drugs. CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump FDA Food and Drug Administration National Institute of Health NIH
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