President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 “testing czar” has implied it’s time for the commander in chief and other officials to stop promoting hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, as a possible treatment for coronavirus.
“The evidence just doesn’t show that hydroxychloroquine is effective right now,” Brett Giroir, assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “I think we need to move on from that and talk about what is effective.”
Giroir also suggested that medical professionals across the country agree with his conclusions about the efficacy of the drug.
“I think most physicians and prescribers are evidence-based, and they’re not influenced by whatever is on Twitter or anything else,” Giroir said.
Trump has pushed hydroxychloroquine since March, however, as a possible way to treat patients stricken with COVID-19. In response, health experts, including White House coronavirus task force member Anthony Fauci, have long argued that there is no evidence for its use in treating the disease.
Trump has often attacked the credibility of those who challenge his position on hydroxychloroquine. Just last week, the president retweeted a controversial video that was highly critical of Fauci, saying he was misleading the American people on a number of subjects, including the anti-malarial drug. The video that Trump had promoted has many false and misleading claims.
Trump announced in May that he was using it himself to prevent contracting COVID-19, despite the absence of evidence for that particular use.
In early July, Trump also touted a study that purported hydroxychloroquine was effective at treating the disease. “The highly respected Henry Ford Health System just reported, based on a large sampling, that HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE cut the death rate in certain sick patients very significantly,” Trump tweeted.
Last week, however, Fauci challenged the conclusions of that study, which he described as “flawed.”
“The Henry Ford Hospital study that was published was a non-controlled retrospective cohort study that was confounded by a number of issues, including the fact that many people who were receiving hydroxychloroquine were also using corticosteroids, which we know from another study gives a clear benefit in reducing deaths with advanced disease,” Fauci said during a congressional hearing.
The study was not randomized, and did not include a placebo group to demonstrate any differences in those who were treated with or without the drug, he added.
Despite medical experts saying it doesn’t work — or, in some cases, that it may cause more harm to patients than good — a number of Trump’s political allies in Congress have also latched onto hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), an anti-mask lawmaker who tested positive for coronavirus last week, spun his diagnosis to suggest his mask was responsible for his illness by trapping the virus inside his facial covering. Gohmert, who had rarely worn a mask to stop the spread of coronavirus, failed to provide any scientific backing for his claim.
On Fox News last week, Gohmert also said he was using hydroxychloroquine as a treatment. “My doctor and I are all in” for the drug, he told host Sean Hannity.
During Fauci’s testimony last week, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Missouri) attempted to defend the use of the drug for treating COVID-19. He blasted Fauci’s criticisms of the Henry Ford Health Systems study, arguing that it was valid since it was peer-reviewed.
“It doesn’t matter,” Fauci replied. “You can peer review something that’s a bad study.”