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Trump Wants To Speed Up Wuhan Virus Drug Tests: Bureaucrats Object

Trump Right to Try
The Wall Street Journal's
Thomas M. Burton reported yesterday that he White House considered issuing an executive order greatly expanding the use of investigational drugs against the new coronavirus, but met with objections from Food and Drug Administration scientists who warned it could pose unneeded risks to patients, according to a senior government official.

The idea to expand testing of drugs and other medical therapies was strongly opposed by the FDA’s senior scientists this week, the official said, and represented the most notable conflict between the FDA and the White House in recent memory wrote Mr. Burton.

While the White House issued a general denial of the Wall Street Journal report, President Trump told reporters that the administration is expanding access to tests for the virus, and that he would have more to say on that issue later.

Mr. Burton’s report comes at a time when reports have begun to circulate that several existing, and inexpensive, drugs have proven in small studies to be efficacious against the COVID-19 virus.

Most notable of these drugs is chloroquine. It's a widely used anti-malaria pill that was first approved in the US in 1949.

Andrew Dunn, a healthcare reporter at Business Insider covering the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, reports countries including China, South Korea, and Belgium, have added it to treatment guidelines for COVID-19 as anecdotal reports have come in suggesting it may work.

There is no peer-reviewed clinical data showing chloroquine works against COVID-19, wrote Mr. Dunn. But that hasn't stopped doctors from using it, US prescriptions from spiking, and even Elon Musk from tweeting about it as a potential treatment.

As dozens of drug companies have rushed into research projects to develop antibodies and other next-generation therapeutics, Mr. Dunn says chloroquine stands out as a potentially simple, cheap, and scalable treatment, though we haven't yet seen data from any randomized clinical trials, the gold standard of medical research.

"If clinical data confirm the biological results, the novel coronavirus-associated disease will have become one of the simplest and cheapest to treat and prevent among infectious respiratory diseases," a group of French researchers wrote on February 15 in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents.

One of the three authors of that article was Didier Raoult, a prominent infectious disease expert who's running a clinical trial in France to test a version of the drug called hydroxychloroquine on a few dozen patients with COVID-19, reported Mr. Dunn. It's one of many clinical studies going on around the world in testing chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine.

Chloroquine, as a simple pill, could prevent some COVID-19 patients from worsening to the point of needing hospitalization in the first place.

Dunn reports researchers also plan to test chloroquine in healthcare workers to see if it can help prevent them from getting the virus in the first place.

FiercePharma, a webnews service that reports on the pharmaceutical industry’s products and finances, and industry trends, reports pharmaceutical giant Bayer is getting ready to deliver a large donation of chloroquine after a study published last month in Nature concluded that “chloroquine is a cheap and a safe drug that has been used for more than 70 years and, therefore, it is potentially clinically applicable against the 2019-nCoV.”

Many companies—including Sanofi, Regeneron, Roche, AbbVie, Gilead, Johnson & Johnson, Takeda, and Pfizer—are advancing new drugs and vaccines, reports Eric Sagonowsky, an editor with FiercePharma and FierceVaccines. However, all these private sector “all hands on deck” efforts will leave many people vulnerable to life-changing illness and death if bureaucrats put the brakes on aggressive trialing of coronavirus treatments.

Our friend Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning went for the throats of these bungling bureaucrats in a statement saying:

The Wall Street Journal reports that FDA government scientists opposed expanded anti-virus testing out of fear that it might do harm.  We have just effectively destroyed our national economy in an attempt to slow the spread of the Wuhan virus, yet these bureaucrat scientists opposed aggressive attempts to find a vaccine and cure?  This is beyond absurd, it is bureaucratic malpractice.

One thing is clear, those who kept insisting that the ‘white lab coat guys’ be in charge of this health emergency should all shut up once and for all.  It is in the job description of bureaucrat scientists at the Food and Drug Administration that they be risk averse, and this very aversion is an obstacle to taking every step to avert a disaster that these very public health experts claim may kill more than a million Americans.

Once again, it should be obvious to every American, that the last people you want in charge of your health care are government bureaucrat scientists whose existence is dependent upon their ability to take all downside risk out of medical treatments as they are a death sentence to both health care innovation and to those patients who have life threatening illnesses.

On May 30, 2018 President Trump signed a federal “Right to Try” bill into law, protecting terminally ill patients’ right to try medicines that have not yet been approved by the federal government for market. A year later, reported Nicholas Florko, a Washington correspondent for STAT,  bureaucrats were still denying patients access to experimental drugs. Now we see the same risk-averse bureaucrats holding up promising treatments for the Wuhan virus. President Trump is right to apply the “right to try” philosophy to drugs that show promise in the fight against the Chinese coronavirus epidemic and bureaucrats in lab coats should get out of the way.

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