Former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb weighed in Sunday on the use of antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for the novel coronavirus and reacted to several businesses in Georgia reopening during the pandemic.
Speaking on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Gottlieb said that he doesn’t think doctors should be using hydroxychloroquine “outside of protocols at this point, given the fact that we’ve had now accruing evidence demonstrating really no benefit and some indication that it could be causing harm.”
Gottlieb made the comments two days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned against the use of two antimalarial drugs that have been touted as possible treatments for the new coronavirus following reports of “serious heart rhythm problems” in COVID-19 patients treated with the medications.
The drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine should not be used outside of a hospital or clinical setting, the agency said, especially when used alongside the antibiotic azithromycin, also known as a Z-Pak.
“The FDA is aware of reports of serious heart rhythm problems in patients with COVID-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, often in combination with azithromycin,” the FDA wrote on its website.
The medications, which have been long prescribed to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, have made headlines in recent weeks after President Trump called the drugs a potential “game-changer” for the treatment of COVID-19 after a French study suggested that hydroxychloroquine, in combination with azithromycin, could shorten the duration of illness for coronavirus patients.
In late March, the FDA put in place an emergency-use authorization to try these drugs in severe cases of the virus.
“I think it’s still reasonable to conduct clinical studies with it to see if it could be effective as a treatment, but we’ve done a lot of clinical studies to date and we haven’t turned over a card that’s really shown that the drug is effective,” Gottlieb said on Sunday.
He went on to note that “this [hydroxychloroquine] was being used very widely in New York City and other cities as well, it’s being used very widely in Italy also, off-label as a treatment initially in the setting of this outbreak here in the United States.”