Jazz wrote about hydroxychloroquine this morning. News broke yesterday that a French researcher, supposedly well respected, found that hydroxychloroquine rapidly reduced the infectiousness of coronavirus patients. Quote: “We were able to ascertain that patients who had not received Plaquenil (the drug containing hydroxychloroquine) were still contagious after six days, but of those that had received Plaquenil, after six days, only 25% were still contagious.”
That’s not all. As Jazz noted, last night Tucker Carlson had on an “advisor to the Stanford University School of Medicine SPARK Translational Research Program” who’s working with the French researcher. That guy doesn’t appear to be a doctor; he has a law degree and his bio says he’s “led a biotech firm for the past five years in research and clinical evaluation of Chloroquine in various diseases.” He told Carlson that 40 out of 40 coronavirus patients who were treated with hydroxychloroquine in the French trial recovered from the disease. One hundred percent success.
The kicker, though, is that hydroxychloroquine is already on the shelf. Unlike promising experimental drugs like remdesivir, chloroquine’s been around for decades as a treatment for other maladies. It’s safe for human consumption. It hasn’t undergone clinical trials here yet as a coronavirus treatment — that’s coming — but it seems like a cinch that American doctors are going to reach for it and use it off-label as a defense against COVID-19 given the early hype about it. Which means we should have some basic idea very soon, as hospitals are deluged, how effective it is or not.
Here’s Trump touting it at a briefing this morning:
President Trump on Hydroxychloroquine: "It's been around for a long time, so we know if things don't go as planned it's not going to kill anybody…It's shown very, very encouraging early results, and we're going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately." pic.twitter.com/Q7C8dk7gnd
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 19, 2020
As usual, there was some clean-up afterwards:
11:47: *TRUMP SAYS FDA HAS APPROVED CHLOROQUINE FOR USE IN COVID-19
11:48: *TRUMP SAYS STILL COLLECTING EVIDENCE OF CHLOROQUINE EFFICACY
11:48: *TRUMP SAYS CHLOROQUINE RISKS LOW AND ARE WELL-KNOWN
12:12: *FDA SAYS IT HAS NOT APPROVED CHLOROQUINE FOR COVID-19 USE
— Emma Kinery (@EmmaKinery) March 19, 2020
The FDA hasn’t approved hydroxychloroquine or remdesivir to treat COVID-19 yet but it’s looking to expand their use while clinical trials are pending. There’s been noise about those two drugs practically since the start of the outbreak in Wuhan: All the way back on February 4, Chinese scientists flagged remdesivir and chloroquine as treatments that seemed to effectively inhibit coronavirus in vitro. Another Chinese report published a few days ago specified that hydroxychloroquine, a less toxic derivative of chloroquine, was also effective against the disease. Now we have the French study also showing strong results.
Less than 24 hours ago, Bayer announced that it would make a “large donation” of chloroquine to the U.S. government. Clearly this is the closest thing in the world’s collective medical arsenal that’s ready to be deployed right now that might meaningfully punch down the death rate. Which, I guess, explains why Trump was talking about it this morning even though there appears to be no real “news” from the federal government about it. Nothing has changed; the drug hasn’t been approved for treatment. All he and FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn wanted to do is give the public a little hope at a moment when hope is short supply. For the sake of his and Hahn’s credibility, I hope they’re not overhyping a treatment that’s going to go bust once American doctors actually begin trying it. Drugs that look “promising” in treating COVID-19 have been known to do that already.
A pessimistic thought I had: Given how widely available hydroxychloroquine is, shouldn’t we know already from China and Italy whether it’s effective or not? Surely Italian doctors have heard the anecdotal reports that the drug works. They’re desperate enough at the moment to try anything on hand. Why haven’t we heard any “yay, chloroquine!” stories out of northern Italy? And a more optimistic thought: If chloroquine does work, could it potentially be used quasi-prophylactically to try to squelch coronavirus infections before they get rolling in lieu of a vaccine? In other words, might we reach a stage of this epidemic where doctors prescribe it the instant someone has a fever, a sort of just-in-case treatment to head off a possible coronavirus infection before it takes root?
Here’s Hahn talking up how the FDA is on the case and looking to expedite treatments as quickly as humanly — but responsibly — possible.
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 19, 2020