Federal Health Officials’ Advice Conflict Over Hydroxychloroquine

Federal Health Officials’ Advice Conflict Over Hydroxychloroquine


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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At least two prominent federal public health professionals appear to be offering Americans at least somewhat conflicting advice on the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19.

The use of hydroxychloroquine–which is supposed to be used as an anti-malaria drug–as a treatment for the COVID-19 pandemic has emerged as a controversy since the novel coronavirus outbreak exploded worldwide. Prescribing a drug for a condition that it was not originally intended is called “off-label” prescribing.

Some swear by the prescription of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of the virulent COVID-19 as a miracle drug. Other medical professionals warn that its use is unproven and there are side effects.

Among those who advocate for it are a 52-year-old Florida man who says he recovered from a severe case of the disease after taking the medication, as well as Hollywood actor Daniel Dae Kim.

Fox News host Laura Ingraham had Dr Anthony Fauci, who has been serving as a top coronavirus adviser to Donald Trump, on her nightly program, and specifically asked him about the use of hydroxychloroquine.

“You know what I would do, Laura, there are a number of clinical trials. I’m a believer in a clinical trial,” Dr Fauci replied. “At the same time I want to help myself, I want to get an answer as to what really works or not, so I might take one of those drugs, but I would do it within the auspices of a controlled clinical trial. I’ve always felt that way.”

Ingraham, nevertheless, pressed Dr Fauci on the topic, by trying to emphasize the emergency status of the coronavirus outbreak.

“And so — but you would take one of those drugs because we are getting some positive results and this is — this is wartime, right? It’s not all button down and control, we do what we can do with what we have,” she said.

Dr Fauci wasn’t rattled from his position, however, answering: “I’m not so sure, Laura, just to clarify, that I would necessarily take one of those drugs. I would take a drug that was on a clinical trial. Some of those drugs that you’re mentioning are available within the context of a clinical trial.

“Those same drugs you could probably get from your physician if they be an off label use because they’re already approved for other purposes like malaria and some autoimmune diseases, but myself, personally, I like to get some knowledge out of it, so if I had a situation where I needed a drug, I’d look around and see if there was a clinical trial that would give me access within the contours of a clinical trial.”

Still, Ingraham ended with: “Dr. Fauci, Americans want facts and transparency, but they also want hope, so what hope can you give them tonight?”

“You know, the hope that I give is that right now to just hang on as best as you can, just please implement the recommendations of the guidelines to be able to protect yourself and those around you, avoid crowds, do the things that are on that list that we talk about essentially every night, but also know as time goes by as we test more drugs, as we get better and better in the vaccine — you know, I [said] some time ago that a vaccine is being developed, it still will be quite a while before we have it, but it is conceivable that this may go into another season and if it does, it will bring us that much closer to the possibility of having not only drugs available, but also a vaccine, so that the hope for the future,” Dr Fauci said.

‘I Would Try Anything’

Separately, on his program, Fox News host Sean Hannity interviewed Surgeon General Jerome Adams, specifically about the drugs hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin.

“It is one of those things where people don’t understand that you can both have helped but still as a scientist or physician who want to verify. And that’s what Dr. Fauci has been saying,” Adams said. “We are hopeful that these medications will work, we have heard some powerful anecdotal stories, but we want to make sure we are tracking what we are seeing right now in New York City’s doctors are prescribing off label because at the end of the day if your loved one is dying, you want to be given the right to try whatever is possible but we also want to track and make sure that works.

“I want to give people a timeline here,” Adams added. “We are looking at a vaccine and may be about a year, looking at a few months hopefully some really good therapeutics with all these trials that are going on across the country and right now, 15 days to stop the spread leaning into the mitigation efforts.”

Like Ingraham, Hannity pressed his guest by painting an emergency scenario: “Would you take hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin if it was you or a family member?”

Adams answered: “If it was me for a family member and they were in the hospital in the ICU, I would try anything that I could to help keep them alive and that’s what we want to get is that opportunity to keep everyone’s loved ones alive.”

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