The US federal government is now stuck with 63 million doses of hydroxychloroquine after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revoked permission for the drug to be distributed and taken as a Covid-19 treatment. The government began stockpiling the drug back in March when this pandemic first began and we weren’t aware of any solid treatment options to combat it.
The FDA officially revoked their authorization of hydroxychloroquine use this past Monday, stating that “there was no reason to believe the drug was effective against the virus, and it actually increased the risk of side effects such as heart problems.”
The government, however, initially ignored the FDA and any other warning against the use of the drug, especially after President Trump went on record stating hydroxychloroquine was a “very encouraging and powerful game-changer” in the fight against the coronavirus.
Now, the US is dealing with a stockpile of 63 million doses of hydroxychloroquine, plus another 2 million doses of the drug chloroquine, which is a drug similar to hydroxychloroquine that pharmaceutical company Bayer donated to the US back in March.
“Nationally, we put a great emphasis on one drug, hydroxychloroquine. I worry that history will judge this as having over-invested in one treatment pathway as opposed to looking more broadly at a larger number of treatment candidates,” said David Holtgrave, the dean of the School of Public Health at the University at Albany before the FDA ended up unauthorizing the use of the drug.
Before the FDA revoked its authorization a major stockpile of 31 million doses had already been distributed throughout the US. Major pharmaceutical companies from around the country began “donating” their doses to the stockpile once the announcement was made. In general, hydroxychloroquine is used to treat diseases such as malaria, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus, in fact, it’s been a successful treatment for all of these ailments for many years now.
Once Trump began praising hydroxychloroquine for its ability to combat the coronavirus, individuals who have any of the above illnesses claimed to have trouble accessing the drug, as individuals and companies began stockpiling it to redistribute for a profit.
“[The FDA’s] decision to authorize hydroxychloroquine in March was based on evaluation of the EUA criteria and the scientific evidence available at that time. However, many infectious disease experts, including those who’ve studied the drug for coronavirus, say there was never any evidence that the drug worked for the virus,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn stated.
Every infectious disease expert/healthcare worker who studies the drug has claimed that there was never any evidence to suggest that it could help kill the coronavirus. Trump’s consistently emphasized, however, that the drug had “a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine,” and for some, hearing that from the president of the United States in the middle of a global pandemic was enough to regain some hope and want to stock up on some hydroxychloroquine.
Since the FDA’s renouncement of their authorization, two major studies have been published that fully proved hydroxychloroquine was ineffective against Covid-19. So for now, it’s important that we continue to listen to our health care professionals directly for all medical updates regarding the coronavirus, and continue to abide by social distancing/quarantine measures.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.