On Friday, President Donald Trump said two, old antimalarial drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, showed “very encouraging results” and enthusiastically promoted the promise of these drugs as a potential coronavirus treatment.
Acknowledging that he could not predict the drugs would work, Trump said, “I’m a smart guy. I feel good about it. And we’re going to see. You’re going to see soon enough.”
However, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Dr. Anthony Fauci, explained that there was only anecdotal evidence that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine may be effective.
Emphasizing that he was a scientist. Dr. Fauci said, “The president feels optimistic about something, has feelings about it. I am saying it may be effective.”
Trump’s enthusiasm toward the drugs has raised concerns among doctors and especially patients who reply on the drugs to treat lupus and other diseases. They fear that the idea of using these antimalarial drugs for treating coronavirus could lead to shortages of supplies.
Dr. Michael Lockshin from Weill-Cornell University Medical College said, “Rheumatologists are furious about the hype going on over this drug. There is a run on it and we’re getting calls every few minutes, literally, from patients who are trying to stay on the drug and finding it in short supply.”
Trump’s enthusiasm for the drugs is based on reports from China and France that they helped patients with coronavirus. However, Dr. Fauci and other researchers expressed their concerns and said the reports are not based on carefully controlled studies.
On Saturday, Trump took to Twitter to announce yet another unproven coronavirus treatment – a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin (antibiotic), citing a small, controlled study conducted by French researchers.
Dr. Rockshin explained that hydroxychloroquine is especially important for people who have lupus, which could be life-threatening. The drug is advised to reduce the risk of dying from lupus and prevent organ damage.
Dr. Percio Gulko from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai said, “I would hope that doctors would stick to the science and try to keep a cool head.”
“Somebody is prescribing it for people who are trying to get it, in some instances preventively,” he added. “They may just be depriving the patients who do need it for an established indication, for a possibility or a speculation.”