Republican senator Ron Johnson (WI) is calling on President Donald Trump to issue an executive order that would force states to direct hospitals to increase the use of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which has been promoted by the president as an effective treatment for coronavirus, despite scant evidence of its benefits.
The executive order would prohibit governors from limiting hydroxychloroquine to hospitalized patients and prevent any state medical and pharmacy boards from retaliating against doctors or pharmacists who prescribe the drug for patients infected with or exposed to coronavirus, Politico reports.
Johnson is organizing a letter from physicians, which is still being circulated for signatures, to push Trump to remove a restriction from the Food and Drug Administration that says hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can be used for only certain “hospitalized patients.”
Johnson’s letter argues that restricting the drug to hospitalized patients results in the “loss of the critical early window of opportunity” to prevent the spread of the virus and reduce hospitalizations.
But health experts warn that prescribing hydroxychloroquine outside of hospitals will make it even more difficult to track effectiveness or risks, like heart problems, that can spring up. There is no evidence that the drug helps prevent coronavirus and limited data to suggest it helps people early on in their infection, though trials are ongoing.
Johnson’s letter also pushes back on criticism that hydroxychloroquine is an unproven way to address the coronavirus because no definitive clinical results have come out yet and some early studies suggest no impact at all.
“Evidence of successful treatment in thousands of patients is accumulating from many countries as well as U.S. physicians; it is far beyond ‘anecdotal,’” the letter said, according to Politico.