With the help of the Food and Drug Administration, which has fast-tracked the effort, the state of New York is trying out potential treatments for people who have contracted COVID-19. Under the direction of Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state is testing out three medications — hydroxychloroquine, chloroquine and azithromycin — combinations of which have produced promising results for those infected by coronavirus, which President Trump has repeatedly highlighted in public statements.
The Washington Post, which, like many other left-leaning mainstream outlets has criticized Trump for “overhyping” the medications as a potential treatment for the virus, reported Thursday on New York’s treatment effort, which the paper describes as a “human experiment” involving potentially thousands of patients that is “moving at unprecedented speed and scale.”
“New York will use three medications — hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin — contributed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Amneal Pharmaceuticals,” the paper reports, citing state officials. “The first wave of patients will receive hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin.”
The study’s findings will contribute to a federally coordinated “observational” trial, which will compare the treatment method with a placebo. “In addition to mortality and overall recovery, the study will measure patients’ overall viral load, duration on a ventilator and number of days in the hospital,” the Times explains.
The Food and Drug Administration has moved with “uncommon speed” to authorize New York’s distribution of the drugs through hospitals, the Post notes. While experts say such an effort would usually take up to nine months, the timeline “has been compressed into three days,” the paper reports.
The Post repeatedly underscores that the treatment has not yet been proven to be effective by officials and highlights “concerns” among health experts about the Trump and Cuomo-promoted medications, which sometimes have dangerous side effects, like “fatal heart arrhythmia and vision loss.” The Post’s editorial board has accused Trump of causing “damage” by pointing to the treatment as a potential “cure.” The paper’s new report suggests Trump, and to a lesser extent Cuomo, may be guilty of “raising false hopes in the American public” and “contribut[ing] to runs on supply and hoarding” of the drugs.
But the Republican president and the Democratic governor appear to agree that the promise of the much-needed treatment trumps concerns about “overhyping.”
While the Post appears to remain skeptical about the “human experiment,” some in the health industry are praising the rapidity of the federal and state-coordinated action. “I have never seen anything like this. It is amazing how the country and everybody can pull together and come up with quick, innovative ways to try to attack it,” said Northwell Health Chief Pharmacy Officer Onisis Stefas, the paper reports. “Everybody’s questioning it, and that’s why these studies need to be done to confirm it. There aren’t a lot of other options out there.”
Along with the urgency of testing out the potential treatment, Trump and Cuomo also appear to be aligning on the question of how long to maintain mandated lockdowns, with the governor recently questioning the effectiveness of mass quarantines.
“We closed everything down. That was our public health strategy,” Cuomo said Thursday. “If you re-thought that or had time to analyze that public health strategy, I don’t know that you would say ‘Quarantine everyone.’”
“I don’t even know that that was the best public health policy,” he said. “Young people then quarantined with older people, [it] was probably not the best public health strategy. The younger people could have been exposing the older people to an infection.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly cited the New York Times as the source of the new report rather than the Washington Post.