Controversy continues to rage over President Trump’s advocacy of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine (HC) to combat the coronavirus. As we reported last month, Trump critics were shocked, shocked that the president would dare to venture a medical opinion, but based on anecdotal evidence from around the globe, it appeared to us that the president had placed a bold winning bet on HC.
The blowback was fierce. The White House for a time fell silent on HC. On Sunday, Trump jumped back into the fray with a defense of the drug and an attack on his critics at a Fox News Town Hall event.
Response to the Judicial Watch article was swift, particularly after Trump retweeted journalist Paul Sperry’s tweet about the story. We received a lot of email. Many of the comments can’t be repeated in this family-friendly venue. Others were enlightening.
“I’ve been tracking HC treatment and outcomes all over the world,” writes a data analyst. “Long story short, HC-treated patients have a case fatality rate of 0.5% (5 out of 1000) whereas the worldwide rate is 6.9% (69 out of 1000). In other words, current evidence suggests you’re more than 12 times more likely to die if you are diagnosed with COVID 19 and you don’t get HC treatment.”
“I am a Florida physician prescribing HC to patients,” another reader writes. “I do hope it is a winning bet. My take is it helps early and should be used with zinc. Shortened illness. Less lung problems.” Hospitalized patients getting HC should be on heart monitors, this physician warns, a nod to concerns about possible dangerous side effects.
Another reader directed us to an AP story about a Veterans Administration study that showed no benefit and increased deaths from HC. The VA quickly pushed back on the story. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie sent a letter to veterans’ organizations saying the VA study had led to “misinformation” about treatments at VA hospitals. Wilkie said HC was only given to patients at “highest risk” and noted that the Food and Drug Administration had approved HC for emergency use. (The FDA also issued a later warning that HC could lead to dangerous heart rhythm issues.)
In Turkey, the government has thrown HC at everyone with the virus—more than 117,000 cases. 3000 have died, but that’s lower than the global death rate, Turkish officials say. The “relatively low death toll is thanks to treatment protocols in the country, which involve two existing drugs—the controversial anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine touted by President Trump, and Japanese antiviral favipiravir,” CBS News reports.
“Doctors prescribe hydroxychloroquine to everyone who is tested positive for coronavirus,” a Turkish medical official told CBS. “Hospitalized patients may be given favipiravir as well if they encounter breathing problems.” The drug combination seemed to “delay or eliminate the need for intensive care for patients.”
The Turkish effort is not a clinical trial. It’s life in medical wartime. Closer to home, that also appears to be the case at the Yale New Haven Health hospital system, reports the website Medscape. The site is behind a paywall but Yahoo, reporting on the findings, noted that physicians at Yale were prescribing HC “because it had shown potential for success.” Other hospitals also continue to give HC to virus patients, the Yahoo report notes. That’s what Judicial Watch is hearing from front line medical personnel in New York as well.
The bottom line? HC is not without risks, but at hospitals and clinics across the country, it’s life in wartime and increasingly it appears that physicians and medical administrators are deciding that to save lives, HC is a gamble worth taking.
Trump’s bold bet is still looking like a winner.
Micah Morrison is chief investigative reporter for Judicial Watch. Follow him on Twitter @micah_morrison. Tips: firstname.lastname@example.org
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