Coronavirus Facts Only: White House pushes anti-malaria drug as possible cure

By NewsRadio 1120 KMOX

ST. LOUIS (KMOX/AP) - Lots of talk over the weekend during the White House Coronavirus Press Briefing about the great success of Hydroxycholorquine as a possible treatment for COVID-19. SLU Care general internist at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital Dr. Fred Buckhold says it shows some promise but he is still leery about the test results.

He talks about pairing it with azithromycin -- and some of the cardiac dangers with "Z packs."

Dr. Buckhold says the best way to save lives is to prevent the spread of the virus. He also says drugs like Remdesivir now being tested at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital show greater promise in his mind. But he does say they are giving Hydroxycholorquine and z-packs to those who truly have no other option available.

President Donald Trump and members of his administration are growing emphatic in promoting an anti-malaria drug not yet officially approved for fighting COVID-19, even though scientists say more testing is needed before it’s proven safe and effective against the virus.

Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro promoted the drug, hydroxychloroquine, in television interviews Monday, a day after Trump publicly put his faith in the drug to lesson the toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

“What do I know, I’m not a doctor,” Trump told reporters Sunday. “But I have common sense.”

The administration’s promotion of the drug comes after a heated Situation Room meeting of the White House’s coronavirus task force on Saturday, in which Navarro challenged the top U.S. infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, over his concerns about recommending the drug based only on unscientific anecdotal evidence.

Navarro, who has no formal medical training, erupted at Fauci, raising his voice and claiming that the reports of studies he collected were enough to recommend the drug widely, according to a person familiar with the exchange who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the Situation Room blow-up.

Fauci has repeatedly said that current studies provide only anecdotal findings that the drug works. Navarro told CNN on Monday: “I would have two words for you: ‘second opinion.’”

Hydroxychloroquine is officially approved for treating malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, but not COVID-19. Small, preliminary studies have suggested it might help prevent the new coronavirus from entering cells and possibly help patients clear the virus sooner. But those have shown mixed results.

Doctors are already prescribing the malaria drug to patients with COVID-19, a practice known as off-label prescribing. But Fauci has said more testing is needed before it’s clear that the drug works against the coronavirus and is safe for COVID-19 patients.

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