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NY Health Officials Studying Anti-Malarial Drug Touted by Trump As Coronavirus Treatment

A woman holds a prescription of hydroxychloroquine, Seattle, Wash., March 31, 2020. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters)

New York’s health department has treated “4,000 patients to date” with doses of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug promoted by President Trump, to study its effectiveness against coronavirus, officials said.

Officials told the New York Post that DOH has shipped doses of hydroxychloroquine to 56 hospitals across New York, with patients receiving doses over durations of either four- or ten-day regimens.

The University of Albany’s School of Public Health is observing the drug’s impact on the patients, with preliminary results weeks away. “Time is of the essence,’’ Albany’s public-health dean, David Holtgrave, said in a statement. Holtgrave is on the state’s research team.

New York University’s Langone Medical School is conducting its own random trial to see if the drug has preventive characteristics, and is using 2,000 volunteers that have been exposed to someone who have a confirmed or pending coronavirus diagnosis.

“If everything goes as planned, the eight-week trial could provide answers by summer on whether a preventive dose of the drug is safe and effective,’’ NYU Langone said in a press release. “If so, the strategy could give health officials a much needed boost in slowing person-to-person transmission.”

Last month, New York governor Andrew Cuomo said seriously ill patients would be treated with hydroxychloroquine and zithromax, on a “compassionate care” basis. “That’s the drug combination that the president has been talking about,” Cuomo said in a press conference.

Trump has promoted the drugs during the White House’s coronavirus task force press conferences, despite the fact that no controlled clinical trials have definitively proven their effectiveness.

“This would be a gift from heaven, this would be a gift from God if it works,” Trump said of the potential treatment last month. “We are going to pray to God that it does work.”

Axios reported that over the weekend White House economic adviser Peter Navarro against infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci sparred over hydroxychloroquine’s effectiveness. “There has never been a confrontation in the task force meetings like the one yesterday,” a source familiar with the argument revealed. “People speak up and there’s robust debate, but there’s never been a confrontation. Yesterday was the first confrontation.”

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