Ron DeSantis brings in doctors to tout malaria drug for COVID-19 treatment
Ron DeSantis

Image: Ron DeSantis
It's not a cure, but early evidence suggests it helps people combat COVID-19.

Gov. Ron DeSantis continued praising a malaria drug not certified to treat COVID-19 during a Tuesday press conference, but he called on medical professionals and a patient’s testimonial to back up hospitals’ use of the drug.

President Donald Trump has promoted hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the novel coronavirus, even as his own medical advisers, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, remain hesitant to elevate the use of the unproven drug. DeSantis quickly jumped behind Trump’s support of the medication, first mentioning its use during a late-March press conference.

And on Tuesday, the Governor turned to two Florida doctors for an expert opinion on the drug’s use. Dr. Carlos Campo from Tallahassee Memorial Hospital joined DeSantis in the Capitol while Dr. Sunil Kumar from Broward Health tuned in over Zoom.

“I think we need to have every option that’s available for these patients,” Kumar said. “Some of these patients are very, very sick, so we are looking at what’s available and that’s the right way to do it.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved hydroxychloroquine to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, but not COVID-19. The drug has some side effects, including causing heart rhythm problems, that have given some doctors like American Medical Association President Dr. Patrice Harris pause in giving their personal OK for the drug.

While Campo urged that hydroxychloroquine should only be used for inpatient treatment, he said early indicators from clinical trials have suggested it could help some people’s bodies fight the virus faster. However, he did not consider the drug a cure for COVID-19.

Kumar said his team has used the malaria drug in combination with others to great results. As of Monday, Broward Health started treating all patients admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 with hydroxychloroquine, though it is not the only possible treatment.

DeSantis’ team also played a video from one patient in his hospital bed giving an emotional thank you to doctors for trying the drug on him, adding that they saved his life.

“To me, that’s very powerful,” the Governor said. “Obviously, you guys are making sure to leave no stone unturned in treating these folks, and this was an individual who was in really rough shape.”

Until recently, Teva Pharmaceuticals, the Israel-based producer of hydroxychloroquine, was unable to export shipments from its India factory, halting access to the drug. DeSantis said he spoke with Trump, who spoke to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and now India has cleared the drug’s export to only the United States.

Despite a lack of FDA approval and disagreement among his advisers, Trump has repeatedly called for broader use of the drug.

“What do I know, I’m not a doctor,” Trump said Sunday. “But I have common sense.” In promoting the drug’s possibilities, the President has often stated, “What have you got to lose?”

That day, Florida hospitals began using 5-minute “instant” COVID-19 tests created by Abbott Laboratories.

“You’re talking about protecting the health care workforce, you’re talking about identifying patients as they first come into the hospital with certain symptoms,” DeSantis said. “To be able to rule out somebody for COVID, that really helps the hospitals be able to make the best use of their resources.”

As of Tuesday morning, Florida has 14,504 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 254 fatalities. At least 1,777 Floridians have been hospitalized.

___

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at r[email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


24 comments

  • Thomas Knapp

    April 7, 2020 at 5:06 pm

    “Despite a lack of FDA approval”

    It’s time to stop trying to pass that lie off as a fact.

    Hydroxychloroquine is FDA approved, full stop.

    When the FDA approves a drug, it approves it as …

    1) safe; and

    2) effective for specified conditions

    … and doctors are then free to prescribe it.

    Not just for the specified conditions. For any conditions they deem it useful for.

    It’s called “off-label” prescribing, it’s perfectly legal, and it happens all the time.

    In fact, according to WebMD, more than 1 in 5 outpatient prescriptions are “off-label.”

    Is hydroxychloroquine effective vs. COVID-19? I’m not a doctor and make no claim to know.

    Do doctors need FDA approval to prescribe hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19? No, they don’t. They already have FDA approval to prescribe hydroxychloroquine, period.

    • Lee

      April 8, 2020 at 3:59 pm

      Every time Trump speaks of it the price goes up do we need to know anymore?

      • Thomas Knapp

        April 8, 2020 at 4:14 pm

        Yes, we would need to know more.

        Seeing as how it is a generic, common (more than 5 million US prescriptions in 2017), out-of-patent, old (FDA-approved nearly 65 years ago) medication, it’s an unlikely candidate for “talk it up and make a fortune scams.”

        If it did turn out that Trump had a financial stake in it and was talking it up for that reason, I’d support impeachment, removal, indictment, conviction, and throwing away the key.

        But at the moment, that hypothesis is pretty much on the same level of credibility as flat Earth, fake moon landing, Clinton running a pedophile ring out of a pizza parlor, etc.

  • Alan

    April 7, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    There is FDA approval and the author of this article should revise it.

    • SANDY OESTREICH

      April 7, 2020 at 9:12 pm

      ALAN, PLEASE REPLY HERE WITH FDA’S APPROVAL STATEMENT as I believe they gave very conditional support.
      I , AS A NURSE PRACTITIONER WOULD NEVER EVER PRESCRIBE A MEDICATION FOR AN “OFF LABEL USE” UNLESS IT HAD BEEN FULLY TESTED INCLUDING THE FINAL TEST OF SAFETY OF A MED: THE 2 YEAR TRIAL IN PUBLIC USAGE THAT FOLLOWS RIGOROUS OTHER TRIALS LONG BEFORE THAT! I COULD BE JAILED FOR MURDER.

      AND THE TWO WHO CURRENTLY DIED FROM TAKING IT ON THEIR OWN.

      IF YOU WOULD PRESCRIBE SUCH AN UNTESTED MED (W/ONLY ANECDOTAL APPROVEMENT STATEMENTS, NO REAL TESTING, YET NEW DEATHS FROM INGESTING THIS MALARIA DRUG!

      • Thomas Knapp

        April 7, 2020 at 9:25 pm

        So you, as a nurse practitioner, would let a dying patient die rather than prescribe an FDA-approved drug for which the evidence for the specific application is thus far anecdotal?

        If so, you should surrender your license and get a job that doesn’t involve caring for patients — or at least notify your supervising physician of your anti-patient attitude so that you can be more carefully watched for the patients’ health and safety.

        I’m grateful you’re not practicing in my neck of the woods so that I don’t have to ask my doctor to add a note to my family’s files ensuring you are never entrusted with any of our care.

        The two deaths were from eating koi pond cleaner with a similar chemical name, not from taking the drug in question.

        • SANDY OESTREICH

          April 7, 2020 at 10:33 pm

          It depends..I’m glad I don’t have you as a patient, so we are even. I gather you would not trust my judgment, and that’s up to you of course.

          Statistically speaking treating with a medication that has not been tested as this one is, one’s chances of death are more likely in general. Testing is essential tho you are correct that the deaths mentioned were from a medication from the same chemical family, just not This one.

          Patient is taking all the risk and perhaps not even told and given the choice to not take it. Several internal organs are often involved in the breakdown of medications, so if one’s liver or kidneys or lungs are genetically involved in that or of excretion, or age of patient has them all at risk, they will be much more susceptible.

          We shall see. I am generally against using patients as guinea pigs especially if they are not fully warned, as some of these might experience in the frenzy of the ICU etc. Dangerous decision in any event.
          “DO NO HARM” is part of the Hypocratic Oath a physician (or Nurse Practitioner) abides by.

          • SANDY OESTREICH

            April 7, 2020 at 10:37 pm

            AGAIN, PLEASE SUPPLY A COPY OF FDA “APPROVAL” OF THIS MEDICATION, SO THAT WE ARE ALL CLEAR ON THAT, THO I DO SENSE THAT HUMAN NATURE IN THIS CRISIS MIGHT IMPINGE ON FDA TO DO “SOMETHING” OUT OF FRUSTRATION AND FEAR. FDA HAS ON OCCASION BOWED TO POLITICAL PRESSURE IN THE PAST; JUST SAYING..

            WE LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR FORWARDING A COPY OF FDA APPROVAL.

          • Charles

            April 8, 2020 at 12:55 pm

            You’re talking through your neck… it is the drug Korea is using tr hat has dramatically saved lives. Doctors in New York have spoken up about its effectiveness to the point that all 300 + of his patients survived with minimal side effects.

            The FDA approval means zip to me. Have you not seen the hundreds of class action lawsuits against drug companies of late?

            This drug has been around for along time.

            Friendly fyi, trump right to try bill has saved alot of lives because it puts rights back into the patients control and out of away for in the box thinkers like you.

            You are trained in trauma care. Dr’s literally know little about cures. That knowledge is outside of your medical training knowledge. I entrust this to Naturopath Drs.

  • Amy Roberts

    April 7, 2020 at 5:51 pm

    I’m not taking it. It’s not approved for specific use for Covid-19. Also it’s not a stand alone drug for Covid-19. If your Dr. prescribes it great! That way your family has someone to sue if it has long lasting adverse side effects or God forbid, causes death.

    • Thomas Knapp

      April 7, 2020 at 6:24 pm

      Well, of course you have a right to refuse medical treatment.

      Just as Darwin intended.

  • Sonja Fitch

    April 7, 2020 at 6:48 pm

    Omg. Desantis is a damn nazi willing to let folks die to please his master trump

    • SANDRA OLIVA

      April 7, 2020 at 10:16 pm

      Actually, yes he does WHATEVER HIS LORD AND MASTER TRUMP TELLS HIM TO DO..ALL THE REPUBLICANS BEHAVE LIKE THAT.. REPUBLICANS LEAD ALL THE CURRENT STATES THAT HAVE NO ORDERS TO SAFE AT HOME!

      TRUMP NEEDS TO WORRY LESS ABOUT THE ECONOMIC EFFCT OF THIS VIRUS AND MORE ABOUT THE PEOPLE NEEDING TO AVOID OR OVERCOME THIS VIRUS SO THAT THEY CAN GO BACK TO WORK, as he needs to consider the latter so the rest have to shelter in place on our own, UNTIL trump wakes up to that argument and ISSUES THE ORDER FOR THE ENTIRE USA TO STAY HOME! PERIOD.

      • SANDRA OLIVA

        April 7, 2020 at 10:21 pm

        but I do feel a bit sorry for those scared-to-death republican officials (governors, etc) who MUST OBEY TRUMP! (or, what happens? less campaign $from GOP coffers or the Threat of scourging reprisal from trump? Or what???)

        Meanwhile, tho, his People are dying because they don’t know they must sequester for the duration or because they don’t believe that affects them, as some of his followers do.

      • Free Thinker

        April 7, 2020 at 11:33 pm

        Trump seems to care more about people’s health than you do. Doctors all over the world are prescribing Hydroxychloroquine and reporting very positive results. My cousin is head of nursing at a major Minnesota hospital and they’ve been giving it to patients and seeing rapid recovery for nearly two weeks. Why in the world would you claim a 70 year old FDA approved drug is killing people? 1/5 of all prescriptions are estimated to be off-label. This isn’t a new idea and is in fact commonplace. I highly doubt you’re a nurse or you’d know these things. Seriously, try to overcome your Trump Derangement Syndrome and do what’s right.

        • Amy Roberts

          April 8, 2020 at 11:17 am

          Please Site sources of Dr.’s all over the world are using it as treatment.

  • John Perrillo

    April 7, 2020 at 10:09 pm

    Why the heclose is the media so vehemently negative on chloroquine? Could it only be that Trump endorses the use here in America? ( other countries are administering it with good results thus far!)
    or is there something more nefarious?
    Renzo Downey. You are a hack!

    • Ocean Joe

      April 8, 2020 at 11:08 am

      Renzo, when folks start attacking the messenger you have proof you are an effective reporter! Save that comment for your scrapbook.

  • John

    April 8, 2020 at 1:10 pm

    DeSantis is touting a misguided and dangerous idea meant to deflect and obfuscate. hydroxychloroquine has not been approved for COVID 19 treatment. Trump and DeSantis are peddling false hope. One thing is clear. There will be a major loss of life from this virus. We don’t need a spike in cardiac arrhythmias due to the misuse of hydroxychloroquine

    • Thomas Knapp

      April 8, 2020 at 1:38 pm

      “hydroxychloroquine has not been approved for COVID 19 treatment”

      Nor does it have to be. It’s been approved by the FDA for some uses. “Off-label” uses are up to doctors who find it effective.

      I’m amazed at how bloodthirsty some of you are: “So WHAT if more people die, it’s worth it to make sure that nobody questions bureaucrats’ AUTHORITAH! Only the AUTHORITAHS should be allowed to make exceptions for emergencies! Everyone else should sit down, shut up, and stop acting like it’s important for them to be able to breathe.”

      • John

        April 8, 2020 at 2:09 pm

        Thomas, it still doesn’t change the fact that Trump and DeSantis are peddling false hope. There is nothing Bloodthirsty in stating the fact, COVID 19 has and will continue to kill a lot of people. Give me the scientific basis for using hydroxychloroquine as an effective drug in the fight against the virus and we can move on together, otherwise you may as well continue barking at the moon. Don’t be fooled into a false sense of security. There’s a lot we don’t know about this virus and a lot of misinformation that’s being spread.

        • Thomas Knapp

          April 8, 2020 at 2:27 pm

          I don’t have a “sense of security,” false or otherwise.

          I’m aware that COVID-19 is a dangerous disease, especially for people who fit into any of several risk categories, some of which I’m in.

          Because we are at the height of a pandemic, there isn’t time to wait for a minimum 18-24 month “scientific basis” process before using a drug that has shown anecdotal promise, including on a fairly large scale in e.g. France, and that was certified “safe” (although only “effective” for other uses) by the FDA long ago.

          If you’re bleeding to death and the only tourniquet available may not be sterile, I don’t let you bleed to death rather than risk infection. I take my best shot at saving your life now. Unless I’m a monster, anyway.

          I don’t give a tinker’s dam if Trump and DeSantis are peddling “false hope,” any more than I care that that quack Fauci was peddling false Armageddon BS up to a week ago. If I get the disease and my doctor thinks this drug will help and that I need it to remain alive, I’ll trust her decision on that (unlike a nurse practitioner in this thread, I don’t think my doctor would run around yelling OMG LET HIM DIE IF THE PAPERWORK ISN’T RIGHT OMG).

  • John

    April 8, 2020 at 3:31 pm

    The French doctor,Didier Raoult, that you are referring to has a pretty sketchy past. His study, which claims a 100% cure rate was picked up by Trump from of all people Dr.Oz. You may think of Dr. Fauci as a quack, but I would bet on him over Oz any day. The day the study came out, Fauci, the leading infectious-disease expert advising the White House’s coronavirus task force, downplayed the findings as “anecdotal.” The report was not a randomized clinical trial—one in which many people are followed to see how their health fares, not simply whether a virus is detectable. And Oz’s “100 percent” interpretation involves conspicuous omissions. According to the study itself, three other patients who received hydroxychloroquine were too sick to be tested for the virus by day six (they were intubated in the ICU). Another had a bad reaction to the drug and stopped taking it. Another was not tested because, by day six, he had died. It’s sad to see the president and other politicians using this misinformation to deflect and hide their own failure in stemming the number of deaths from this virus.

  • Thomas Knapp

    April 8, 2020 at 4:18 pm

    “You may think of Dr. Fauci as a quack, but I would bet on him over Oz any day.”

    Can’t say as I’m familiar with Dr. Oz.

    Did he, like Fauci, spread the rumor that AIDS could be transmitted through casual contact long after that had been disproven?

    Is he, like Fauci, furiously working both to walk back his earlier catastrophist death toll projections AND somehow simultaneously take credit for being wrong?

Comments are closed.


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