White House preparing to promote malaria drugs on online platform to combat coronavirus: report

Source: The Hill | March 24, 2020 | Zack Budryk

The White House is reportedly planning to promote the use of two malaria drugs frequently touted by President Trump as a potential treatment for coronavirus despite their unproven benefits, using a platform built by the tech firm Oracle.

The platform is slated to be used to collect information about off-label uses of the two drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, the New York Times reported on Tuesday. The FDA is still reviewing both drugs’ effectiveness as a coronavirus treatment, and top public health officials have warned against jumping to conclusions on their effects.

Health and Human Services agencies such as the FDA and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are part of the Oracle efforts, as is the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, the Times reported, citing two senior administration officials, who said the platform could be used to gather data from doctors who prescribe the drugs and track symptoms in patients.

Dr. David B. Agus, a professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California, is also reported to be working with the White House and Oracle, and has repeatedly promoted the use of the drugs against the virus, saying on television recently “the earlier you use them, the better.”

Health officials within the administration have reportedly expressed dismay about Trump’s promotion of bypassing standard clinical trials for the drugs as a coronavirus remedy.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Anthony Fauci met Tuesday afternoon with Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn to discuss concerns with the plan and Chinese data indicating they are ineffective, the Times reported.

Trump, meanwhile, has grown increasingly bullish on the drugs, which numerous Fox News personalities and contributors to whom he plays close attention have promoted. Trump said last Thursday “we’re going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately,” while Hahn said at the same conference that it would ensure any such products were “safe and effective” first.

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