In March, U.S. President Donald Trump took to social media to espouse the benefits of hydroxychloroquine, a drug typically used to treat malaria and/or lupus, in relation to the fight against the novel coronavirus. However, there was little in the way of meaningful evidence to back up the president’s claims at the time, and the drug was later shown to be ineffective (and potentially dangerous) as a COVID-19 treatment. Now, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer is demanding to know why the Department of Veterans Affairs allowed its use in treating infected vets.
As reported by The Associated Press, Schumer’s request for information comes in the wake of a whistleblower complaint by Dr. Rick Bright — former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority — alleging that the White House aimed to “flood” virus hot spots in New York and New Jersey with the drug. In an AP interview, Schumer alluded to disturbing findings about hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment.
“There are concerns that they are using this drug when the medical evidence says it doesn’t help and could hurt,” said the Senate’s minority leader.
The evidence Schumer is referencing has grown significantly stronger in the weeks since Trump introduced hydroxychloroquine as a talking point. At the heart of the current complaint is a study of VA patients funded by the National Institutes of Health and the University of Virginia that found a higher incidence of negative outcomes as a result of taking the drug.
As reported by The Inquisitr, 368 older, male patients took part in the study, which showed a significantly higher mortality rate in those treated with a drug compared to those whose treatment plans did not include hydroxychloroquine. It was not, however, a rigorous experiment, and calls for clinical trials and further testing are still being made.
More recently, a study involving 1,400 patients who were treated using hydroxychloroquine at New York City’s Columbia University found that the drug is “not a panacea.”
However, the crux of Schumer’s probe is the drug’s use by the VA. The senator is now calling upon VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to answer questions about the analysis of VA hospital data. Wilkie is also being prompted to address whether anyone at the department was pressured by the Trump administration to use hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19. For his part, Wilkie has denied that veterans were used as test subjects and claimed that the drug has actually been effective in treating younger and middle-aged veterans.
However, the AP notes that there is no published evidence to back those claims.