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Expert: Hydroxycholorquine Helping Flatten Curve in New York

New York state health officials say as many as four-thousand coronavirus patients across the state have been given the “unproven” anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to help fight off the coronavirus. President Donald Trump has been touting the potential life-saving benefit of the newly FDA approved drug against COVID-19. Infectious diseases expert Dr. Aileen Marty told Jen and Bill this morning that the flattening of the curve in New York can be directly related to this drug. Listen to the full interview with Dr. Marty here.

Last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo said healthcare workers would be allowed to use the drug in combination with antibiotics to treat patients with severe cases of the virus.

It is also possible that Governor Cuomo’s younger brother, CNN Prime Time host Chris Cuomo, who has the coronavirus, has also been prescribed anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to help fight his high fever. A state Health Department official said the DOH has shipped doses of hydroxychloroquine to 56 hospitals across New York, distributing enough “to treat 4,000 patients to date.” Patients have received doses as part of four- or 10-day regimens, officials said. The University of Albany’s School of Public Health is observing the drug’s impact on the patients, and its preliminary study could come back in weeks instead of the usual months, officials said. There are also clinical trials being conducted to see whether the drug can help block transmission. NYU Langone Medical School is conducting a random trial with a $9.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Currently, there is no proven way to prevent COVID-19 after being exposed,” said Anna Bershteyn, an assistant professor with the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone and the study’s co-principal investigator. “If hydroxychloroquine provides protection, then it could be an essential tool for fighting this pandemic. If it doesn’t, then people should avoid unnecessary risks from taking the drug.” The RX has long been used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Its potential side effects include everything from fatal heart arrhythmia to vision loss, ear-ringing, vomiting, mood changes, skin rashes and hair loss. Health officials are treading cautiously, saying they don’t anticipate hydroxychloroquine will be a “miracle drug” against the coronavirus — but the studies are worth the gamble. In terms of the NYU clinical trial regarding prevention, researchers are enrolling 2,000 adult volunteers at six sites. They are recruiting people who lack any COVID-19 symptoms but have been in close contact with others who have a confirmed or pending diagnosis. On a random basis, the trial participants will receive either hydroxychloroquine or a placebo pill — vitamin C — every day for two weeks. Each day during the 14-day period and then again on Day 28, the participants will swab their nasal passages and send the samples to researchers to detect potential COVID-19 infection. “If everything goes as planned, the eight-week trial could provide answers by summer on whether a preventive dose of the drug is safe and effective,’’ NYU Langone said in a release. “If so, the strategy could give health officials a much needed boost in slowing person-to-person transmission.” The FDA granted “emergency-use” authorization to use hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients amid the pandemic in late March. There has been anecdotal evidence from China, South Korea and France, that the drug helped patients clear the virus sooner. But Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, asked recently whether the drug was considered a treatment for the novel coronavirus, said, “The answer is no … The evidence that you’re talking about … is anecdotal evidence.”