Nation's testing czar: It's 'time to move on' from talk about hydroxychloroquine

Brett Giroir says emphasis should be on "effective" ways to curb the virus despite Trump's continued promotion of hydroxychloroquine.

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By Ben Kamisar

WASHINGTON — Dr. Brett Giroir, who coordinates the Trump administration's coronavirus testing response, said Sunday that there is no evidence that hydroxychloroquine is an "effective" treatment for COVID-19, despite President Donald Trump's repeated boosting of the drug over objections from experts.

In an interview on "Meet the Press," Giroir, the assistant secretary of health and human services for health, did not specifically mention the president, but he it made clear that the scientific consensus is that the drug does not help treat the disease.

"Most physicians and prescribers are evidence-based, and they're not influenced by whatever is on Twitter or anything else. And the evidence just does not show hydroxychloroquine is effective right now," he said.

"We need to move on from that and talk about what is effective," he added, pointing to public hygiene measures like hand-washing and mask-wearing, as well as treatments like the drug remdesivir and steroids.

"At this point in time, there has been five randomized controlled, placebo-controlled trials that do not show any benefit to hydroxychloroquine. So, at this point in time, we don't recommend that as a treatment."

Since the early days of the pandemic, Trump has promoted his belief that hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, could help treat the disease. In May, he said he had taken the unproven treatment for two weeks prophylactically.

While the Food and Drug Administration briefly issued the drug an emergency use authorization that allowed it to be used as treatment for COVID-19, it withdrew the authorization in June. In removing the authorization, it pointed to "a large, randomized clinical trial in hospitalized patients that found these medicines showed no benefit for decreasing the likelihood of death or speeding recovery."

Despite similar statements from public health officials, as well as an FDA warning against using the drug outside a hospital setting because of a risk of serious heart problems, Trump has remained steadfast in boosting of the drug.

Last week, Trump retweeted a video of a Houston-area doctor arguing in favor of using the drug and calling it a cure for the coronavirus. Twitter removed the video as a "violation of our COVID-19 misinformation policy," and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the video was "spouting something that isn't true."

Trump defended his decision to share the video during a White House briefing, saying, "I happen to believe in it." He was later pressed to answer for the doctor's past statements, which include blaming certain medical problems on demonic possession.

"She was on air along with many other doctors," Trump said. "They were being fans of hydroxychloroquine, and I thought she was very impressive in the sense that — from where she came, I don't know which country she comes from — but she said that she's had tremendous success with hundreds of different patients, and I thought her voice was an important voice. But I know nothing about her."