On Thursday Morning March 19, President Donald Trump and his Coronavirus Task Force outlined the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) current endeavors to find appropriate treatments to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Concerns over the economy and a shortage of medical supplies were also discussed.
According to Dr. Stephen Hahn, Commissioner of Food and Drugs for the FDA, a vaccine for the virus has reached phase 1 trials with an estimated time of 12 months before it will be ready to be distributed, which is actually much faster than normal. In the meantime, the FDA is looking at other options to help patients fight the symptoms of the disease.
Trump talked specifically about chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as drugs that may possibly be used to combat the coronavirus’s symptoms. Both are primarily drugs used to treat malaria but are also used to treat other ailments like rheumatoid arthritis. The exact way these drugs affect the body is not completely understood, but they can be very effective at reducing pain.
“This has been used in different forms, very powerful drug, in different forms and it’s shown very encouraging, very, very encouraging early results,” said Trump.
Trump also emphasized the convenience in using old, already tested drugs to treat the virus, since they have already gone through the FDA testing, unlike new drugs which need to go through an approval process.
Another drug mentioned that could possibly help combat the virus was remdesivir, an antiviral drug that, according to Hahn, is already in clinical trials and has been approved by the FDA for what’s known as “compassionate use,” officially called Expanded Access, which allows some severely ill patients to seek help through experimental treatment.
According to Hahn, the FDA is looking at both of these drugs and a myriad of others to try and find the best solution for short-term treatment prior to the creation of a vaccine.
Hahn also discussed the “possible” but “not proven” treatment known as convalescent plasma that could possibly be developed in the short term. This treatment would involve collecting and concentrating the blood of people who contracted the virus and then recovered fully from it, and then taking that concentrated blood and giving it to other patients in an attempt to boost their immune system’s response to the virus.
Hahn and Trump both praised the workers at the FDA for all of their hard work. Hahn made sure to clarify that all drugs were still going through the proper testing and vetting process. Hahn said everyone at the FDA was working overtime to solve the immediate need for Coronavirus treatments specifically.
Trump also promised to support businesses during this tough time and said he believed that the economy would bounce back after the country gets through this current crisis.
“We’ll be back, and I actually think we’ll be back stronger than before,” said Trump.
Trump responded to questions concerning the lack of supplies hospitals are dealing with as they attempt to fight the virus and his decision not to make heavy use of the Defense Production Act to solve that issue. According to Trump, it won’t be necessary because they have already scaled back potential company liabilities regarding the sale of medical supplies and that should immediately help make things like masks more available and make it easier for companies to sell them to hospitals. He also emphasized that it was the job of the states and governors to ensure medical supplies are available and that his administration was working with and helping those governors.
“We’re working with the states, we’re working with the governors, we’re working with everybody, the relationships are great,” said Trump. “Nobody ever heard of the number of masks that’s been ordered (but) they’re being made now and they’re available now.”