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Trump Effect: Big Bet on Virus Drug Still Winning


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Hydroxychloroquine (HC)
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Texas Border Business

Micah Morrison (Photo courtesy Twitter)

By Micah Morrison

The president’s pandemic policies are under fire, but in one area a big Trumpian bet is still coming up a winner. Three new studies suggest that the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine (HC) shows success in the fight against the coronavirus.

In Michigan, a study of more than 2,500 patients at six Detroit-area hospitals found that HC, administered early, significantly cut the death rate. “Our analysis shows that that using hydroxychloroquine helped save lives,” said Steven Kalkanis, CEO of the Henry Ford Health System. “It needs to be used early,” he added. “It needs to be used in a hospital setting.”

In New York City, researchers with the Mt. Sinai Health System studying more than 6000 patients with Covid-19 found they died at a lower rate when treated with HC. In the study, after adjusting for other risk factors, the Mt. Sinai researchers found that “hydroxychloroquine use was associated with decreased in-hospital mortality.”

And in India, a massive study of more than 300,000 people, including front line medical personnel, found that HC provided prophylactic benefits. “The task force of medical experts, including physicians and super specialists, have recommend and backed the drive to administer HC in cluster areas and high exposure cases,” a senior medical official told the Indian Express. “The benefits seem to far outweigh the debate around its risks and it has certainly helped in implementing the preventive strategies.”

Read about the India experience here. Read the Mount Sinai study here and more on the Detroit study here.

Of course, none of this was supposed to happen. Trump’s enthusiastic embrace of the drug was widely ridiculed. A president with a medical opinion! How dare he! Warnings about the drug flowed from the media, political opponents, the Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, and others. Trump not only stuck to his path, but brazenly doubled down in May with the announcement that he himself was taking HC as a prophylactic.

Is HC a miracle drug in the fight against the virus? No. If it was, we’d know by now.

But it does seem to help in certain cases, such as when administered early to healthy patients with no underlying conditions, or as a prophylactic for front line personnel. Serious people are giving HC a serious look. Prescriptions for the drug in the U.S. jumped more than 150% earlier this year. International supply efforts surged. None of this would have happened without Trump.

All this suggests a kind of Trump Effect that may be with us long after Trump himself has departed the political scene. As we observed back in April, when we first looked at the HC controversy, Trump pounded the bully pulpit, preferred outside channels of information, distrusted experts, hewed to deregulatory impulses, leaned on the levers of government, and embraced conservative and social media to promote the drug. This turned out to be not just a winning bet, but a winning strategy. Others doubtless will take note.

Micah Morrison is chief investigative reporter for Judicial Watch. Follow him on Twitter @micah_morrison. Tips: mmorrison@judicialwatch.org

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