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Trump: Some Americans already trying coronavirus treatments; FDA reviewing ASAP

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, delivers remarks at a coronavirus update briefing Sunday, March 15, 2020, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)
March 19, 2020

President Donald Trump on Thursday announced what he believes are promising options for treating patients that have contracted coronavirus.

Trump named said malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine and the drug remdesivir have shown “encouraging results” as a means of treating coronavirus. Trump said Thursday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had permitted medical workers to review the drugs to treat coronavirus patients.

Trump said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was already approving “compassionate use” waivers for some patients hoping to try potential coronavirus treatment options that have been used in other countries.

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According to the FDA, “compassionate use,” or “Expanded Access” allows for patients with life-threatening illnesses to try otherwise investigational medical products.

FDA Commissioner and doctor Stephen Hahn said during the press briefing that the FDA had removed barriers to review coronavirus treatment options as quickly as possible, though he said the FDA is still maintaining its mission to ensure the safety of medical products.

Hahn said the FDA has been working with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since January to study the coronavirus and begin developing therapeutics to combat the virus. In that time, he said the FDA has reviewed many treatment proposals and has been working to review those proposals quickly.

Because drugs like chloroquine have already been approved as treatments for other infectious diseases, Hahn said the FDA can conduct studies to expand its use to treat coronavirus.

Hahn also said the FDA is gathering additional data for its review of the treatment options from those patients already being permitted to try the treatments under “compassionate use” guidelines.

On Wednesday, an Australian university announced it began testing the viability of chloroquine and remdesivir to treat coronavirus.

“There is some data from China, although it’s a bit murky because it was really undertaken in a situation of extremis, meaning their hospitals were overrun,” professor David Paterson of the University of Queensland Center for Clinical Research said of the Australian efforts.

Paterson said Australian patients had already used chloroquine and remdesivir and some limited instances but the effort in his research trial is to study the treatments in a precise clinical setting.

Going beyond treating the coronavirus, efforts are also being made to prevent the spread of the infection through a vaccine. Health experts have widely indicated a vaccine could still be 12 to 18 months away.

The Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle began its initial phase of coronavirus vaccine testing on humans on Monday. The Pentagon-funded Canadian company Medicago also said it had developed a potential vaccine just 20 days after receiving the COVID-19 genetic sequence.

Globally, the number of coronavirus cases has approached 230,000 globally as of Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University’s case tracking map. The number of U.S. coronavirus has surpassed 10,000 cases and 154 people have died.