Thursday, April 16, 2020

Trump's favorite coronavirus drugs

The True Costs of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Chloroquine and Hydroxychoroquine

President Donald Trump has repeatedly touted the malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, despite a lack of clinical evidence that they work for the disease. The president’s comments set off a scramble among doctors and patients to obtain the drugs—frequently used to treat autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus—and there is now a shortage of them in the U.S.

Also, these substances can be dangerous in healthy people: a man in Arizona died after ingesting a fish-tank cleaner containing a type of chloroquine that is not approved for human use. On March 28 the FDA issued an emergency authorization for administering chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine to COVID-19 patient, but many experts say the widespread usage of these drugs is premature. 

“The clinical support is very, very minimal,” says Maryam Keshtkar-Jahromi, an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, who co-authored an article in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene calling for more randomized controlled trials of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. The drugs do “not show strong evidence at this point,” she adds. 

A few pre-clinical studies have suggested these compounds could be effective at blocking infection with the novel coronavirus (officially called SARS-CoV-2), but there has been very little good evidence from clinical trials in patients with COVID-19. 

A controversial small, nonrandomized trial of hydroxychloroquine combined with the antibiotic azithromycin in France suggested that COVID-19 patients given the treatment had less virus, compared with those who refused the drugs or those at another hospital who did not receive them. 

But experts have questioned the study’s validity, and the society that publishes the journal has issued a statement of concern about the results, according to Retraction Watch. (Scientific American reached out to the paper’s authors for comment but did not hear back from them.) 

A pre-print study in China also claimed to show that hydroxychloroquine benefitted COVID-19 patients, but it had significant methodology problems, Keshtkar-Jahromi says. The issues included confounding variables, such as that all of the subjects received other antiviral and antibacterial treatments. 

Some scientists say the preclinical evidence is strong enough to support chloroquine’s use, however. “We know how it acts at the cellular level against the virus. We have preclinical proof,” says Andrea Cortegiani, in the departments of anesthesia and intensive care and of surgical, oncological and oral sciences at the University of Palermo in Italy. “Second, it’s a cheap drug, available all over world,” adds Cortegiani, who is also a clinician at University Hospital Paolo Giaccone in Italy. 

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine have been hypothesized to work against COVID-19 by changing the pH required for SARS-CoV-2 to replicate. Given their use in autoimmune disorders, these medications could also play a role in dampening the immune response to the virus—which can be deadly in some patients. 

But these drugs’ cardiac toxicity is a concern, Keshtkar-Jahromi says. There have been some reports of myocarditis, or inflamed heart tissue, in people with COVID-19 who have not taken chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine. 

If patients receiving one of these medications die of heart complications—and are not in a clinical trial—doctors cannot know if the drug contributed to higher chance of death.* 

A drug that modulates the immune response could also make someone more vulnerable to other viral or bacterial infections. “It’s a double-edged sword,” says Sina Bavari, chief science officer and founder of Edge BioInnovation Consulting in Frederick, Md., who co-authored Keshtkar-Jahromi’s article in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine. Giving a drug to suppress the immune system has to be done with extreme care. 

“We are not saying, Don’t [prescribe chloroquine],” Bavari says. “We are saying more data is needed to better understand how the drug works---if it works”... 


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South Korea's example: We need a lot more testing

Mother Jones

Kevin Drum in Mother Jones:

"Aggressive testing has been the key to their approach."

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Anthony Fauci: American hero

Anthony Fauci
Tyler Comrie

Best thing I've seen about Anthony Fauci: in the April 20 New Yorker, by Michael Specter:

...The crisis that the world now faces comes as no surprise to Fauci. On January 10, 2017, ten days before Trump took the oath of office, Fauci delivered the keynote address at a conference at Georgetown University, titled “Pandemic Preparedness for the Next Administration.” 

After describing his years of managing epidemics, he posed a series of questions to the audience: “Will there be a resurgence of Zika? We’re getting into the summer in South America. Are we going to see a resurgence or not? What about influenza? Are we going to get a new pandemic?”

Fauci’s last point, he emphasized, was almost certainly the most important: the possibility that some unknown, powerfully infectious pathogen could emerge to threaten the world. 

“What about things that we’re not even thinking about?” he said. He let the question drift out over the hall. “What is for sure,” he concluded, “is that, no matter what, history has told us definitively that it will happen”...

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Donald J. Trump, Captain of the Titanic

Quora

There isn't any iceberg.
There was an iceberg, but it's in a totally different ocean.
The iceberg is in this ocean, but it will melt very soon.
There is an iceberg, but we didn't hit the iceberg.
We hit the iceberg, but the damage will be repaired very shortly.
The iceberg is a Chinese iceberg.
We are taking on water, but every passenger who wants a lifeboat can get a lifeboat, and they are beautiful lifeboats. Passengers need to ask nicely for the lifeboats if they want them.
We don't have any lifeboats; we're not lifeboat distributors.
Passengers should have planned for icebergs and brought their own lifeboats.
I really don't think we need that many lifeboats.
We have lifeboats, but they're supposed to be our lifeboats, not the passengers' lifeboats.
The lifeboats were left onshore by the last captain of this ship.
Nobody could have foreseen the iceberg.

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