An anti-malaria drug touted by President Donald Trump as a possible treatment for people suffering with COVID-19, the disease brought on by the coronavirus, is being used in New York to treat as many as 4,000 people.
“Time is of the essence,’’ said David Holtgrave, dean of the University at Albany’s School of Public Health, according to the New York Post.
Holtgrave is part of a state team studying the impact of the drug on COVID-19 patients.
The state Health Department has sent the drug to 56 hospitals across New York to treat patients as part of either a four-day or 10-day treatment.
The University at Albany is studying the impact of the drug and will have a preliminary report in several weeks.
New York University’s Langone Medical School is conducting a random trial on the drug.
“Currently, there is no proven way to prevent COVID-19 after being exposed,” said Anna Bershteyn, an assistant professor with the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone.
“If hydroxychloroquine provides protection, then it could be an essential tool for fighting this pandemic. If it doesn’t, then people should avoid unnecessary risks from taking the drug,” she said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in March that the drug would be used on a trial basis in state hospitals in combination with the antibiotic Zithromax.
NYU Langone is hoping that after its eight-week trial, it can determine the safety and effectiveness of a preventive dose of the drug.
During Saturday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing, Trump made it clear that his support for the drug comes in the absence of anything else making an impact in fighting the disease.
“[O]ne of the reasons that I keep talking about hydroxychloroquine is that the question that nobody ever asks, and the question that I most hate the answer to, is: ‘What happens if you do have a ventilator? What are your chances?’” Trump said, according to a White House transcript of the briefing.
“If you do have the ventilator, you know the answer to that question. And I hate giving the answer,” Trump said. “So I don’t want to get them there. I don’t want to get them there.”
Trump said sick Americans with few other options should embrace the choices they have.
“What do you have to lose? I’ll say it again: What do you have to lose? Take it. I really think they should take it. But it’s their choice and it’s their doctor’s choice, or the doctors in the hospital,” Trump said.
“[I]f this drug works, it will be not a game-changer, because that’s not a nice enough term; it will be wonderful. It’ll be so beautiful. It’ll be a gift from heaven if it works. Because when people go into those ventilators, you know the answers, I know the answers.”
This weekend, Mend Urgent Care CEO Dr. Anthony Cardillo told KABC he has seen very good results when using hydroxychloroquine along with zinc.
“Every patient I’ve prescribed it to has been very, very ill and within 8 to 12 hours, they were basically symptom-free,” Cardillo said. “So clinically I am seeing a resolution.”
On Monday, Cuomo said the use of the drug so far in New York has been “anecdotally” effective, but more time is needed before it can be proven with scientific data.
“The tests in the hospital, they’re too short a period of time to get a scientific report,” Cuomo said, according to The Hill. “Hospital administrators, doctors want to have a significant data set before they give a formal opinion.
“Anecdotally, you’ll get suggestions that it has been effective. But we don’t have any official data yet from a hospital or a quote-unquote study, which will take weeks if not months.”
“There has been anecdotal evidence that it is promising; that’s why we’re going ahead,” he added.
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