As confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States surge upwards on a daily basis, the Food and Drug Administration is allowing desperate doctors to use a malaria drug to treat COVID-19.
The FDA issued the emergency authorization for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine Monday, despite a dearth of evidence of its efficacy in treating the coronavirus.
Under the authorization by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the drugs can be "donated to the Strategic National Stockpile to be distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible."
Over 30 million doses of the decades-old malaria drug have already been donated by both Sandoz and Bayer.
The move comes after President Trump pressured the FDA to allow hospitals to utilize the malaria drug — which is also used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis — as a therapy for the pandemic-causing novel coronavirus.
While some doctors elsewhere in the world have reported success using hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat COVID-19, there isn't much scientific data on the matter.
Former acting chief scientist for the FDA, Luciana Borio, was critical of the step, saying late Sunday that there is a "total lack of scientific evidence" that it is beneficial in the treatment of COVID-19.
Infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci had reportedly cautioned President Trump from rushing approval on unproven medicines. But Trump signaled Friday that he had made up his mind.
"I think Tony would disagree with me ... we have a pandemic, we have people dying now," Trump told Politico. "They indicated that we'll start working on it right away. It could take a year. I said, 'What do you mean a year?' We have to have it tonight."
The greater medical community is concerned the FDA's measure could make the drugs scarce for people who need it for conditions it is proven to treat.
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