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by Sharon Rondeau

Donald J. Trump, official White House photo, public domain

(Mar. 30, 2020) — In a lengthy interview with “Fox & Friends” co-hosts Ainsley Earhardt, Brian Kilmeade and Steve Doocy on Monday morning, President Donald Trump spoke on a variety of topics from the coronavirus pandemic, the CARES Act signed on Friday to stimulate the damaged U.S. economy, the “war” over oil supply between Russia and Saudi Arabia, the Russia “hoax” in which Trump and his 2016 campaign were falsely accused of “collusion” with the Russian government, and the U.S. government’s “war” against the virus, among others.

During the interview, Trump touted his relationship with state and territorial governors, with whom he has kept in close contact as mobilization efforts have stepped up across the country over the past two weeks.

Beginning at 8:00 a.m., the exchanged lasted nearly an hour.  At approximately 8:47 a.m., Earhardt presented a viewer question regarding which experimental treatments for coronavirus appear to show the most promise.  Trump responded that the development of a vaccine is progressing well, although it will not serve “for now.” As he has said in recent press conferences, Trump said that the efficacy of the combination of azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine, now being used for 1,100 patients in New York City in an FDA-approved trial, could be revealed within “three days.”

On Sunday night, the FDA approved donations to the national medicine stockpile of hydroxychloroquine sulfate and chloroquine sulfate “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.”

The press release further states:

Hydroxychloroquine sulfate and chloroquine phosphate are oral prescription drugs approved to treat malaria and other diseases. Although there are no currently approved treatments for COVID-19, both drugs have shown activity in laboratory studies against coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Anecdotal reports suggest that these drugs may offer some benefit in the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Clinical trials are needed to provide scientific evidence that these treatments are effective.

Addressing the use of the drugs for already-approved uses, the FDA wrote:

Use of the donated medications is expected to help ease supply pressures for the drug, and the FDA is also working with manufacturers of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to increase production to ensure these drugs also remain available for patients dependent on them for treatment of malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Some states and retail pharmacies also have taken action to preserve the supply of these and other drugs for these patients.

As The Post & Email reported on Saturday, the governors of New York, Michigan and Nevada issued executive directives last Tuesday prohibiting the prescribing of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to patients on a first-time basis for the treatment of novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.  Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer termed that type of prescription not “legitimate.”

During a “virtual townhall” with Fox News the same day, Vice President Mike Pence reported that the FDA “is approving off-label use for the [anti-malarial drug] hydroxychloroquine right now” and “doctors can now prescribe chloroquine for that off-label purpose of dealing with the symptoms of coronavirus…We are making that clear across the country.”

Trump has been criticized by the media for “championing” the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for COVID-19, which were approved in the 1950s for the treatment of malaria, “despite scant evidence.”

Early in the U.S. outbreak, COVID-19 was referred to by the CDC as “SARS-CoV-2.”

On March 20, the website techstartups.com reported its discovery of a 2005 article in Virology Journal which stated, “Chloroquine is effective in preventing the spread of SARS CoV in cell culture. Favorable inhibition of virus spread was observed when the cells were either treated with chloroquine prior to or after SARS CoV infection. In addition, the indirect immunofluorescence assay described herein represents a simple and rapid method for screening SARS-CoV antiviral compounds.”

As of March 19, the FDA approved the use of the drugs for “compassionate use” in treating COVID-19.  An article by Vincent Racaniello, Ph.D., Professor of Microbiology & Immunology in the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, published the same day, reported, “Chloroquine (and a derivative, hydroxychloroquine) has been used for years in the treatment of malaria. The drug is also known to block the entry of many viruses into cells. A small clinical trial has revealed it to be effective in reducing viral loads in COVID-19 patients” and referred to the 2005 finding.

A limited, “non-randomized” trial of the hydroxychloroquine/azithrymycin combination on coronavirus patients by a group of French physicians reported on March 17 [Gautret et al. (2020)] that “Despite its small sample size our survey shows that hydroxychloroquine treatment is significantly associated with viral load reduction/disappearance in COVID-19 patients and its effect is reinforced by azithromycin.”

The FDA release also states:

In addition to accepting and distributing the donated medicines, HHS is funding clinical trials of two drugs, Kevzara (sarilumab) and remdesivir, and is supporting the earlier development of multiple potential therapeutic treatments, vaccines, and diagnostic tests for COVID-19.

HHS continues to seek partners for COVID-19 medical countermeasures, and offers multiple ways to submit proposals for potential products or technologies.

On Sunday, Trump announced that his administration is extending his initial 15-day plan to “slow the spread” of coronavirus through April 30.  Last week, including at the March 24 townhall, Trump indicated his consideration of opening up certain parts of the country with low impact from the virus for business, a plan he said he has now abandoned based on the advice of the Task Force and their experts.

In concluding the interview Monday, Trump said, “We will win, and it’ll be fairly soon.”


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