The US is stockpiling massive doses of an anti-malarial drug hoped to be used to treat coronavirus despite its efficacy remaining unproven.
- The US has ordered 29 million doses of the drug hydroxychloroquine
- Donald Trump says there are “strong signs” the anti-malarial drug can treat COVID-19
- The White House coronavirus task force warns evidence of its efficacy is only anecdotal
US President Donald Trump said Washington had bought “a tremendous amount” of hydroxychloroquine, saying there were “very strong signs” it could treat coronavirus.
At a media conference on Sunday, Mr Trump said the US was “very far down the line” on developing vaccines for COVID-19, adding “we’ll see what happens”.
But he said the US had stockpiled 29 million doses of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment.
“It’s a powerful drug on malaria and there are signs that it works on this, some very strong signs,” he said.
“I would love to go to a laboratory and spend a couple of years testing something.
“We don’t have time, we don’t have two hours because people are dying.
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“If it does help great. If it doesn’t help, we gave it a shot. What really do we have to lose?”
Mr Trump has previously hailed a French study suggesting hydroxychloroquine plus azithromycin, a common antibiotic, might be an effective treatment for COVID-19.
But he told reporters he was not promoting hydroxychloroquine, saying: “It may work, it may not.”
He said it would be a shame “if we didn’t turn to these drugs early, if it turns out they are helpful”.
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Last month, the World Health Organisation announced a mass global trial of four promising treatments, including hydroxychloroquine.
Anthony Fauci, who is part of the White House coronavirus task force, has reminded people that there is only “anecdotal” evidence of hydroxychloroquine being effective against coronavirus.
The drug has major potential side effects, especially for the heart, and large studies are underway to see if it is safe and effective for treating COVID-19.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as a fever and a cough that clear up in two to three weeks.
For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death.
White House medical experts have forecast that between 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die in the pandemic.
At the weekend, there were warnings the US faced a critical week in the coronavirus pandemic, with the US surgeon-general Jerome Adams telling Americans to brace for a Pearl Harbour or 9/11 moment.
But during the latest press briefing, the Mr Trump expressed hope the country was seeing a “levelling off” in some of the nation’s coronavirus hotspots, saying Americans were starting to see “the light at the end of the tunnel”.
New York, the hardest-hit state, reported on Sunday that for the first time in a week, deaths had fallen slightly from the day before, but there were still nearly 600 new fatalities and more than 7,300 new cases.
Research teams around the world are scrambling to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, including in Australia.
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