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During his press conference on Thursday, President Donald Trump said that he told the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to lift rules and bureaucracy to help combat the COVID-19 epidemic. He also directed the agency to make experimental drugs, such as those used to treat malaria, available.
“I have directed the FDA to eliminate rules and bureaucracy so work can proceed rapidly, quickly and fast,” the president said, as reported by Fox News. “We have to remove every barrier or a lot of barriers that were unnecessary and they’ve done that to get the rapid deployment of safe, effective treatments and we think we have some good answers.”
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, however, promised that the FDA will still work to ensure that “products are safe and effective” while saying the agency will explore other options for COVID-19 therapy.
“The FDA is committed to continuing to provide regulatory flexibility and guidance, but let me make one thing clear: the FDA’s responsibility to the American people is to ensure that products are safe and effective,” he said, as reported by CNN. “We need to make sure that this sea of new treatments — we’ll get the right drug to the right patient at the right dosage at the right time.”
Though the right drug may be available, Hahn said that without the right dosage the drug “may do more harm than good,” adding that the FDA is exploring drugs that are “already approved for other indications.”
The president also said that chloroquine, a drug used to combat malaria, will be made available by prescription, which had shown “very encouraging” early results. Another drug, remdesivir, will also be made available to people by the process of “compassionate use.”
“I think it could be a game-changer, and maybe not,” he said.
On chloroquine, Hahn said that the drug will be explored in a clinical trial before being implemented.
“That’s a drug that the President has directed us to take a closer look at as to whether an expanded use approach to that could be done and to actually see if that benefits patients,” said Hahn. “And again, we want to do that in the setting of a clinical trial, a large, pragmatic clinical trial to actually gather that information.”
The president’s remarks came one day after he invoked the “Defense Production Act” to combat COVID-19, referring to himself as a “wartime president.” On top of the “Defense Production Act,” the White House has also proposed a stimulus plan to give Americans $1,000 checks during the COVID-19 crisis.
“White House officials are working with congressional Republicans on an emergency stimulus package that could send two $1,000 checks to many Americans and also devote $300 billion towards helping small businesses avoid mass layoffs, according to two senior administration officials,” The Washington Post reported Wednesday. “No final decisions have been made and talks with Republican leaders remain fluid, but the growing scale of the $1 trillion rescue plan is coming into sharper focus.”
In a tweet on Wednesday, the president assured Americans that “money will soon be coming to you.”
“For the people that are now out of work because of the important and necessary containment policies, for instance the shutting down of hotels, bars and restaurants, money will soon be coming to you,” Trump tweeted. “The onslaught of the Chinese Virus is not your fault! Will be stronger than ever!”