I reported yesterday that Italy and France officially authorized the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat severe cases of Wuhan coronavirus.

Now, the US Food and Drug Administration has issued its own emergency authorization.

The authorization came in a letter dated Saturday, but the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) acknowledged the FDA’s action in a Sunday news release. The FDA limited the scope of its authorization to drugs supplied from the Strategic National Stockpile. The HHS announced that two pharmaceutical companies — Bayer and a division of Novartis — had donated the drugs to the stockpile.

Do the drugs work? In its statement, HHS said:

“Anecdotal reports suggest that these drugs may offer some benefit in the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
“The safety profile of these drugs has only been studied for FDA approved indications, not COVID-19.”

While there’s limited evidence on the efficacy of chloroquine, or hydroxychloroquine, the FDA said the drugs’ benefits outweighed their risk. In its letter, the FDA encouraged randomized clinical trials that could assess the effectiveness of the drugs. It also noted that the known and potential benefits outweigh the risks.

Who can the drugs be used to treat? The authorization is limited to patients who are currently hospitalized and weigh at least 50kg, or about 110 pounds. Under the emergency use authorization, health care providers must contact their local or state health department to access the drugs.

As a reminder, these “anecdotal reports” include 2 studies by a French team that had tremendous success using these drugs to ease the effects of the viral infection.

Novartis CEO says malaria drug is the biggest hope against coronavirus

One big name in the pharmaceutical industry supports the use of anti-malarial drugs as part of the COVID-19 treatment plans.

Novartis Chief Executive Vas Narasimhan said his Sandoz generics unit’s malaria, lupus and arthritis drug hydroxychloroquine is the company’s biggest hope against the coronavirus, Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung reported on Sunday.

Novartis has pledged to donate 130 million doses and is supporting clinical trials needed before the medicine, which U.S. President Donald Trump also has been promoting, can be approved for use against the coronavirus.

Other companies including Bayer and Teva have also agreed to donate hydroxychloroquine or similar drugs, while Gilead Sciences is testing its experimental drug remdesivir against coronavirus.

“Pre-clinical studies in animals as well as the first data from clinical studies show that hydroxychloroquine kills the coronavirus,” Narasimhan told the newspaper. “We’re working with Swiss hospitals on possible treatment protocols for the clinical use of the drug, but it’s too early to say anything definitively.”

Israeli doctor in Italy says innovative treatments offering hopes of recovery

An Israeli doctor in northern Italy says several new procedures appear to be helping some COVID-19 patients. Carmi Sheffer, a doctor at the University Hospital of Padua, told The Times of Israel’s Hebrew-language sister site, Zman Yisrael, that at the onset of the nation’s outbreaks, he had been pessimistic.

..One technique he said had yielded dramatic results was to have patients lie on their stomach instead of on their back while on a ventilator. “Suddenly the oxygen level in the blood jumped by hundreds of percents,” he said.

“I think the worst is behind us. We will control the virus and flatten the curve within a few weeks, but the closure will continue until June,” he predicted. “Italy is ahead of Israel by something like a month, so in my opinion, [in Israel] it will end only in July.”

Why Germany’s Coronavirus Death Rate Is Far Lower Than In Other Countries

Early testing is part of the success.

As Europe has become the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic, Italy’s fatality rate hovers around 10%. France’s is around 5%. Yet Germany’s fatality rate from COVID-19 has remained remarkably low since cases started showing up there more than a month ago. As of March 25, there were 175 deaths and 34,055 cases.

[Christian Drosten, director of the institute of virology at Berlin’s Charité hospital], whose team of researchers developed the first COVID-19 test used in the public domain, said Germany’s low fatality rate is because of his country’s ability to test early and often. He estimates Germany has been testing around 120,000 people a week for COVID-19 during the monthlong period from late February to now, when it’s reached epidemic proportions in the country, the most extensive testing regimen in the world.

 

 
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