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“ANECDOTALLY, IT’S BEEN POSITIVE”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Apr. 6, 2020) — At his daily press briefing beginning at noon on Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo related that the number of new hospitalizations due to the coronavirus in his state may be declining after observing two days of what he described as a “plateau.”
More than 130,000 New Yorkers have been diagnosed with the virus, Cuomo reported. Nearly 17,000 remain hospitalized; 13,000 have been discharged, and over 4,700 have lost their lives, he said while graphics of the numbers were displayed.
“While none of this is good news, the flattening, possible flattening of the curve is better than the increases that we have seen,” Cuomo said (1:40).
He expressed solidarity with the states of New Jersey, Louisiana and Michigan, which continue to experience sharp increases in the numbers of cases. He did not mention neighboring Connecticut, which reported Sunday close to 6,000 cases, most of them in Fairfield and New Haven Counties from which many commute to work in New York City.
After opening up the presser to questions at 12:28 PM EDT, a journalist asked if he planned to amend the portion of his March 23, 2020 executive order barring the dispensing of hydroxychloroquine to COVID-19 patients not enrolled in a “clinical trial” approved by the FDA. Such a trial is under way in New York City involving 1,500 patients, President Trump said at a press briefing last week, an increase over the original 1,100 patients anticipated.
On March 29, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it accepted to the National Strategic Stockpile 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate and chloroquine phosphate and that the FDA granted “emergency use authorization” for the two drugs as “possible” treatment regimens for COVID-19.
Trump has touted hydroxychloroquine as an option for patients to discuss with their physicians, particularly if they are very ill. “The hydroxychloroquine is a — I hope it’s going to be a very important answer; we have some good things happening with it…it’s going into the Strategic National Stockpile to treat certain patients, and we have millions and millions of doses of it…in addition to that, we’re making it and we’re also getting it from various other locations and countries…we’re just hearing really positive stories, and we’re continuing to collect the data…there’s a lot of very positive things happening with that; that’s a game-changer if that’s the case…” Trump said (19:14) at Saturday’s White House Coronavirus Task Force presser.
The medications will be dispatched to various hospitals across the country, the HHS press release said, “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 pertinent section of Cuomo’s March 23 order reads:
No pharmacist shall dispense hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine except when written as prescribed for an FDA-approved indication; or as part of a state approved clinical trial related to COVID-19 for a patient who has tested positive for COVID-19, with such test result documented as part of the prescription. No other experimental or prophylactic use shall be permitted, and any permitted prescription is limited to one fourteen day prescription with no refills.
On Friday morning, “Dr. Oz” host Dr. Mehmet Oz had suggested Cuomo was considering modifying the order based on recent reports of successful treatment with the drugs in COVID-19 patients. Later that day, The Post & Email asked Cuomo’s press office if the governor planned to modify that part of his order and received no response.
Oz has expressed considerable optimism about a report from Dr. Didier Raoult of Marseilles, France, who he said has now enrolled 1,000 coronavirus patients in his clinical trial, which began with 62 patients and has shown promising results.
Dr. Jeff Colyer, former governor of Kansas, has reported positive results with the administration of hydroxychloroquine and azithrymycin for coronavirus, as has infectious-disease specialist Dr. Steven Smith of New Jersey.
On Sunday, Los Angeles-based Dr. Anthony Cardillo reported rapid improvement in a number of hospitalized patients when he administered a combination of hydroxychloroquine and zinc sulfate. “That mirrors what we saw in the French study and some of the other studies worldwide,” he told ABC7. “But what I am seeing is that when people are taking it [hydroxychloroquine] alone, it’s not having efficacy.”
Last month, Dr. Vladimir Zelenko reported success when prescribing the combination of hydroxychloroquine, zinc sulfate and azithromycin to patients who experience shortness of breath and are “immuno-compromised.” He uses hydroxychloroquine himself as a result of lung cancer and surgery last year, he told Forward.
To the reporter’s question (22:10 in the video) on Monday, Cuomo responded that he is aware that hydroxychloroquine and azithrymycin are being prescribed “in hospitals at their discretion.” “The federal government is going to increase the supply to New York pharmacies,” he continued. “We had a 14-day limit on how much you could buy because so many people were trying to buy it. If the federal government increases the supply to New York, which they say they’re going to do, then we could lift the 14-day limit. There are a lot of people who rely on this or are relying on it: people with lupus, etc. The tests in the hospital — they won’t say that they are — they’re too short a period of time to get a scientific report; you know, hospital administrators, doctors, want to give, have a significant data set before they give a formal opinion. Anecdotally, you’ll get suggestions that it has been effective, but we don’t have any official data yet from a hospital or a ‘study,’ which will take weeks, if not months, before you get an official study. Is that a fair statement?”
A second reporter whose voice was difficult to hear said something resembling, “So it’s promising but not conclusive, it sounds like, on that type of treatment in hospitals?” to which Cuomo replied, “Yeah. There has been anecdotal evidence that it is promising; that’s why we’re going ahead. Doctors have to prescribe it. There are some people who have preexisting conditions where it doesn’t work or they’re taking medication that is not consistent with this treatment, but anecdotally, it’s been positive…and if we get an additional supply, which the federal government says it’s going to send…we can lift the 14-day-limit ban.”
Cuomo’s brother Chris, a CNN anchor, last week announced that he tested “positive” for COVID-19 and would conduct his nightly show from the basement of his home. On Thursday, he described to his viewers a severe fever, hallucinations, body aches, tremors, and a broken tooth.
The FDA has issued a “Fact Sheet” for patients considering or already under treatment with hydroxychloroquine sulfate for coronavirus.