Up to 4,000 patients with serious complications from the novel coronavirus in New York are being given the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.
President Donald Trump has hailed the drug, which also is used to treat arthritis and lupus, as a ‘game-changer’ for treating COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Health officials told the New York Post that the medication has been shipped to at least 56 hospitals across the state.
Patients are being given doses as part of either a four- or 10-day regimen, in hopes that their fevers, coughs and shortness of breath will subside.
Health officials have sent hydroxychloroquine to 56 hospitals across New York to treat as many as 4,000 seriously ill coronavirus patients (file image)
A small-scale French study found that the drug could reduce the duration of the illness, but doctors have warned against taking it without guidance. Pictured: A person is loaded into an ambulance at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, March 12
President Donald Trump has touted hydroxychloroquine, as a potential ‘game-changer’ for treating coronavirus. Pictured: A patient is being carried to an ambulance at the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, March 25
President Trump was among the first to wax lyrical about the possible benefits of hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus patients last month.
‘This would be a gift from heaven, this would be a gift from God if it works,’ he said. ‘We are going to pray to God that it does work.’
He then repeated the claims on Twitter.
‘HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine. The FDA has moved mountains – Thank You! Hopefully they will BOTH (H works better with A, International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents),’ he wrote on March DATE.
The study Trump refers to comes from Marseille, France, in which 30 patients were treated with hydroxychloroquine for 10 days combined with azithromycin, an antibiotic.
Although very small, the study ‘showed a significant reduction of the viral carriage’ after the six days and ‘much lower average carrying duration’ compared to patients who received other treatments.
Last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that a combination of the drug along with with azithromycin could be used in hospitals in cases where all other treatments failed.
At the University of Albany’s School of Public Health, researchers are analyzing the impact on patients and hope that have the results of a preliminary study out in just a few weeks.
Meanwhile at New York University’s Langone Medical School, a trial is underway to see if hydroxychloroquine can prevent infection in people who’ve been exposed to the virus.
‘If everything goes as planned, the eight-week trial could provide answers by summer on whether a preventive dose of the drug is safe and effective,’ a press release read.
‘If so, the strategy could give health officials a much needed boost in slowing person-to-person transmission.’
Some anecdotal evidence has also come out of China that hydroxychloroquine helps patients recover from the virus sooner.
But Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is far more skeptical.
‘The data are really just, at best, suggestive,’ he said on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday.
‘There have been cases that show there may be an effect, and there are others to show there’s no effect. So I think, in terms of science, I don’t think we can definitively say it works.’
In the US, there are more than 337,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 9,600 deaths. In New York, there are more than 130,000 cases and 4,700 deaths.