EDITORIAL: Coronavirus 'patients are dying now'
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EDITORIAL: Coronavirus 'patients are dying now'

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President Donald Trump has taken a lot of heat from national media for his words about the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

To hear and read reports, the president is being irresponsible in discussing the drug and other possible treatments, even though all Americans want to know the latest on treatments and a timetable for a vaccine. Words from the president matter, which is why when he goes too far and speculates and inquires about using disinfectants to fight the virus internally, criticism is due.

But when it comes to discussing possible treatments that are undergoing tests around the country and world, the president is not getting a fair shake.

A recent Washington Post analysis piece is titled “The rise and fall of Trump’s obsession with hydroxychloroquine.” It reports on a day-to-day basis what Trump had to say about the drug and cites reports of the drug’s ineffectiveness.

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“April 21: Guidelines published by the National Institutes of Health recommend against the hydroxychloroquine/azithromycin combination ‘because of the potential for toxicities.’ The NIH offers no recommendation about use of hydroxychloroquine alone.

“Later that day, damning results from a study conducted by the Department of Veterans Affairs suggest that those treated with hydroxychloroquine or hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin didn't see marked improvement from use of the drugs. The rate of death was higher in groups treated with the drugs than among those who didn't receive the treatment.”

When asked about the study, the president said. “I don't know of the report. Obviously, there have been some very good reports and perhaps this one is not a good report. But we'll be looking at it."

From April 24: “The FDA formally warns against taking the medicines Trump has promoted due to ‘serious heart rhythm problems.’

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“’We will continue to investigate risks associated with the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for COVID-19 and communicate publicly when we have more information,’ the FDA release states.”

So Americans are largely left to believe the president is promoting use of a drug that does not work and indeed may do harm. Note that even researchers are saying the studies as yet are not complete enough to state one way or another. And all, including the president, have said that use of hydroxychloroquine should be a decision made by doctors and patients.

So in the interest of fairness, we offer a different assessment about which we’ll bet you have read or heard little. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, which has represented physicians of all specialties in all states since 1943, reports that the total number of reported patients treated with HCQ, with or without zinc and the widely used antibiotic azithromycin, is 2,333. The numbers are based on observational data from China, France, South Korea, Algeria, and the U.S.

“Of these, 2,137 or 91.6% improved clinically. There were 63 deaths, all but 11 in a single retrospective report from the Veterans Administration where the patients were severely ill.

“The antiviral properties of these drugs have been studied since 2003. Particularly when combined with zinc, they hinder viral entry into cells and inhibit replication. They may also prevent overreaction by the immune system, which causes the cytokine storm responsible for much of the damage in severe cases. ...

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“Additional benefits shown in some studies … is to decrease the number of days when a patient is contagious, reduce the need for ventilators and shorten the time to clinical recovery."

The AAPS further states that peer-reviewed studies from 2020 “provide clear and convincing evidence that HCQ may be beneficial in COVID-19, especially when used early.”

“Unfortunately, although it is perfectly legal to prescribe drugs for new indications not on the label, the Food and Drug Administration has recommended that CQ and HCQ should be used for COVID-19 only in hospitalized patients in the setting of a clinical study if available. Most states are making it difficult for physicians to prescribe or pharmacists to dispense these medications. ...

“Vaccines and results of randomized double-blind controlled trials of new drugs are at best months away. But patients are dying now, while affordable, long-used drugs would be available except for government restrictions.”

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