By Nachman Kanovsky
It was the best of times. It may become the worst of times. My objective in the following brief essay is not to regurgitate the alarms and clichés which we are constantly inundated with pertaining to this novel corona virus pandemic. What for? I’m sure you’ve heard enough. There is however an aspect of this pandemic which is either being hidden or downplayed by much of the media and by our governments, both federal and state. Weeks before the federal government began shutting down the country in early March, reports were seeping through about an existing drug, hydroxychloroquine, as being effective against the corona virus, especially when taken in combination with the common antibiotic, azithromycin. While none of the reports stated that those results emanated from classical double blind testing, they were sufficiently encouraging to allow the possibility that this pandemic can be short-lived.
When in history did an epidemic break out together with its potential cure? There was an explicit video of a doctor in Orange County NY who reported nearly 100% effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin given to hundreds of his patients. The viral disease specialist from France, who first reported success with that drug combination back in January, had subsequently reported identical successes with much larger sampling. Other doctors were confirming similar results but interestingly – and frustratingly – one had to scour the media and the internet to readily locate these reports. Why?
By mid-March, New York State, apparently with some foot-dragging, agreed to test the drug combination with around 10,000 doses. The Trump administration hinted at the possibility of a new direction in the progression of our counter-measures against the virus more than a week ago. This would have come approximately a week after the 10,000 doses would have been given and their results could have been evaluated. Eight days later, no new direction was announced. On the contrary, at the daily presidential press conference, Dr. Fauci in a response to direct question about hydroxychloroquine stated that the drug is not yet “FDA clinically approved.” He was ostensibly referring to the usual FDA protocols where final approvals for any drug also involves double blind tests which obviously weren’t yet done in a pandemic situation. Which doctor would knowingly give a placebo to an ailing patient facing potential death?
This country, and the world, is facing a catastrophe. This economic certainty extends well beyond the financial realm and includes physical, mental, and sociological ramifications as well as other disastrous probabilities. With these looming eventualities, our governments have correctly implemented all sorts of emergency measures to counter this scourge. No one questions the need for hospital beds, gowns, masks, and the like. Mostly everyone applauds government’s reduction of the usual regulations to get medications and vaccines into play. But there is something missing in the direction we’re going. Vaccines are at least a year away, and they don’t cure those who contracted the disease. New medicines require safety and dosage testing in addition to the double-blind protocols. The reality is that even if any new medicine does acquire FDA approval in record time – which will be at least months – we will face the near certainty of having a “successful operation… but the patient will have died.”
We have medications today, i.e. hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, whose safety and dosages are well-known and established, but their off-label use for the coronavirus has still not passed all the FDA protocols. Moreover, hydroxychloroquine has also shown great promise as a prophylactic, similar to a vaccine. Why has not our government ordered mass manufacturing and distribution of these drugs and made them available to any physician wishing to dispense them for treatment of the coronavirus? Are not these drugs are far easier and quicker to produce than ventilators? In these critical times why aren’t these medicines available to administer to all seniors and other susceptible persons, and to anyone who shows any symptoms of the disease? Such usage should not necessarily require hospitalization either. Instead, various states including New York, New Jersey, and California have imposed restrictions on the use of these drugs. It makes no sense other than its being a suicidal submission to the usual medical protocols. Should we cheer when we hear in the daily briefings about our advancement in the testing procedures and the “granularity” of the models and charts our experts are basing their policies on? Last time I checked, testing doesn’t cure anything. There is more than sufficient evidence from around the world that these well-established medications work. That is where our emphasis should be placed – not on a religious subservience to protocols only applicable and appropriate in otherwise healthy times. Our country is already in the “right to try” condition. What can we possibly lose more than we already are?