Assistant health secretary Adm. Brett Giroir on Sunday rejected claims that the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine is effective in treating COVID-19, pointing out that there’s no evidence so far to show that it is.
Giroir, who led the country’s coronavirus testing efforts until June, was asked in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” if President Donald Trump’s continued push for hydroxychloroquine presents a danger to public health.
Hydroxychloroquine initially looked “very promising” as a potential COVID-19 treatment, but there are no definitive studies of its efficacy, Giroir said.
“At this point in time, there’s been five randomized-control placebo-controlled trials that do not show any benefit to hydroxychloroquine,” he said. “We don’t recommend that as a treatment. There’s no evidence to show that it is.”
Pressed on whether Trump’s messaging might cause confusion, Giroir said he believes doctors won’t be influenced by “whatever’s on Twitter” when deciding how to treat coronavirus patients.
“There may be circumstances ― I don’t know what they are ― where a physician may prescribe it for an individual,” Giroir said. “But I think most physicians and prescribers are evidence-based, and they’re not influenced by whatever’s on Twitter. ... And the evidence just doesn’t show that hydroxychloroquine is effective right now.”
Trump has repeatedly undermined his administration’s public health officials by peddling hydroxychloroquine as an effective treatment for COVID-19. He said in May that he had been taking the unproven drug to prevent contracting the virus.
Last week, he retweeted a video of a small group of fringe doctors who call themselves “America’s Frontline Doctors” decrying coronavirus restrictions and claiming that hydroxychloroquine cures COVID-19. The video was removed by Twitter for violating its rules on spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, announced earlier this week that he had tested positive for the virus and would be taking hydroxychloroquine to treat it.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said Wednesday that clinical trials have “consistently” shown that the drug is not effective in treating COVID-19. What’s more, the FDA has warned that the drug can lead to fatal heart arrhythmia in some patients.
Giroir called on the U.S. to “move on” from hydroxychloroquine and focus on what has been proven to be effective in slowing the spread of the virus: wearing face coverings, washing your hands and avoiding crowds.
“We know that if you get COVID now, your chances of dying are incredibly less than they were in April because our health care providers know how to treat it better,” he said. “We have effective therapies like remdesivir and steroids, promising therapies like immune plasma, and a vaccine really on the horizon.”