Donald Trump told reporters at his White House press conference Thursday that the FDA will soon undergo testing on a drug known as either chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine to see its effectiveness in treating coronavirus. It has previously been used to treat malaria and autoimmune diseases, per CNN.
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said Trump instructed them to take a closer look at the effectiveness of chloroquine on coronavirus patients since the drug has already been approved for use. “It's been around for a long time so we know if things don't go as planned it's not going to kill anybody,” Trump said. “We have to remove every barrier or a lot of barriers that were unnecessary and they've done that to get the rapid deployment of safe, effective treatments and we think we have some good answers.”
While Trump said that the drug will be made available “almost immediately” if it proves to be a viable treatment, Hahn downplayed his lofty expectations, stating that chloroquine will need to go through a clinical trial which should last “over the next couple of weeks” to try and determine the appropriate dosage depending on each patient’s circumstance.
“We will collect that data and make the absolute right decisions based upon those data about the safety and efficacy of the treatments,” Hahn said. “What’s also important is not to provide false hope. We may have the right drug, but it might not be in the appropriate dosage form right now, and it might do more harm than good.”
“We’ll have more information that we're really pushing hard to try to accelerate... and that will be a bridge to other therapies that will take us three to six months to develop,” Hahn continued. “And this is a continuous process -- there is no beginning and end."
While the drug is considered to be safe for most patients, there are some side effects, which include nausea, low blood pressure, seizures, vomiting, deafness, and changes in vision. Hahn said he anticipates that development on an actual coronavirus vaccine will still take “12 months” while Trump revealed that delivery of the 500 million respirator masks ordered by the federal government will occur incrementally over the course of 18 months.