Trump: Malaria Drug May Be Effective in Treating Coronavirus

Melanie Arter | March 19, 2020 | 2:09pm EDT
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(Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

( - President Donald Trump announced “exciting progress” Thursday in finding therapy drugs to fight the coronavirus.

Not only has a drug that’s used to fight malaria and treat arthritis shown promise in fighting COVID-19, but the administration is looking at drugs used overseas to treat the virus.


“Today I want to share with you exciting progress that the FDA's making with the private sector, as we slash red tape like nobody has ever done it before. Somebody was on yesterday on one of the networks and said there's never been a president even close that's been able to do what I've done in slashing all of the red tape and everything to get very important things to the market - medical,” he said.

“So we slash red tape to develop vaccines and therapies as fast as it can possibly be done, long before anybody else was even thinking about doing this. As you know, earlier this week we began the first clinical trial of a vaccine candidate for the virus. That was launched in record time. It was just a few weeks, and that would have taken years to do, not so long ago,” the president said.

“As we race to develop a vaccine, we’re also producing antiviral therapies. That's what we are really going to be talking about today. That's the purpose of being up here today. To me that’s even more important. The vaccine, you have to have long tests, because you have to make sure what goes into somebody’s body is not going to destruction, do bad things, so you need  long tests,” Trump added.

While the development, testing, and approval of vaccines take a long time, treatments for the virus can be discovered and approved faster,” the president said.

”They are doing great with the vaccines, but there’s still a long process, but the therapies are something we can move on much faster, potentially. The treatments that will be able to reduce the severity or duration of the symptoms, make people better. Essentially we are looking at things to make people better, or at the very earlier stages, they wouldn't even know they had it. That's where I believe it's going to work even the best,” Trump said.

The president praised FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn and the agency, saying, “They've done things in times that were not even thinkable.”

“I've directed the FDA to eliminate outdated rules and bureaucracy, so this work can proceed rapidly, quickly, and I mean fast. We have to remove every barrier. There were a lot of barriers that were unnecessary. They've done that to get the rapid deployment of safe, effective treatments, and we think we have some good answers. We'll find out very, very soon,” the president said.

“Clinical trials are already underway for many new therapies, and we are working on scaling these to allow many more Americans to access different drugs that have shown really good promise. We've had some really good promise. We will do so in a way that lets us continue to collect good data to know which medicines are safe and which medicines are working the best. We have a couple that we’re in really good shape on, and that's for immediate delivery - immediate. Like, as fast as we can get it. The FDA has also approved compassionate use for a significant number of patients," he said.

The administration is exploring the use of drugs that were approved overseas for the coronavirus as well as drugs that were approved in the U.S. for other uses. 

You know, one of the things I'm most proud of that I got was right to try. That's where somebody who’s ill, somebody was very sick, terminally usually -- in past administrations -- we said this a year and a half ago -- you wouldn't be able to even think about getting any of the drugs that may be showing great promise. 

They've been trying for many decades to get this approved. It sounds simple, but it's not, because there is liability involved in lots of other things. I was able to get it approved, working with Congress. Right to try. This is beyond right to try. What we are talking about today is beyond right to try. 

Right to try has been, by the way, a tremendous success. People are living now that had no chance of living where we take treatments, things that would have to go through years of a process, and if somebody was terminally ill -- I would say, ‘Why wouldn't they be able to try this?’ They’d go to Asia, Europe, all over the world to try and find something.

Or some people, if they had no money, would go home to die. They go home to die. They had no hope. Right to try has been an incredible success. This is beyond right to try. If treatment is known to be safe in Europe, Japan, or other nations, or effective against a virus, we will use that information to protect the health and safety of American people. 

The president pointed to chloriquine, a drug that has been shown to be effective in treating arthritis and malaria, as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

Nothing will stand in our way as we pursue any avenue to find what best works against this horrible virus. Now, a drug called chloriquine, and some would add to it hydroxychloroquine, so chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine. This is a common malaria drug. It’s also a drug used for strong arthritis. Somebody has pretty serious arthritis. 

“Also, it uses this in a somewhat different form, but it is known as a malaria drug. It's been around for a long time, and it's very powerful, but the nice part is it's been around for a long time. So we know that if things don't go as planned, it's not going to kill anybody. When you go with a brand-new drug, you don't know that that's going to happen. 

You have to see and do long tests, but this has been used in different forms -- a very powerful drug -- in different forms. It has shown very encouraging, very, very encouraging, early results. We are going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately. That's where the FDA has been so great. They've gone through the approval process. It's been approved, and they did it. They took it down for many, many months to immediate. 

We are going to be able to make that drug available by prescription or states -- I spoke with [New York] Governor Cuomo about it at great length last night, and he wants to be right -- he wants to be first on line. So I think that's a tremendous -- there’s tremendous promise based on the results, and other test. There is tremendous promise. Normally, the FDA would take a long time to approve something like that. It was approved very, very quickly, and it's now approve by prescription.

Individual states will handle it. They can handle it, and doctors will handle it. I think it's going to be great. We are quickly studying this drug, and while we are continuing to study it, but the studying is going to be done as it's given out to large groups of people, perhaps in New York and other places. We’ll study it there. There are promising therapies produced by Gilead, and that is Remdesivir. 

That's a drug used for other purposes that has been out, very good results for other purposes, but it seems to have a very good result, having to do with this virus. That drug also has been approved or very close to approved, in that case, by the FDA. I can't tell you how much we appreciate what the FDA. These people are incredible patriots.

The president praised the company Regeneron, saying it’s doing “fantastically well, as I understand, with Ebola and other things.”

“So you have Remdesivir, and you have chloroquine, and hydroxychloroquine. So those are two that are out now, essentially approved for prescribed use. I think it's going to be very exciting. I think it could be a game changer and maybe not, but I think it could be, based on what I see. It could be a game changer - very powerful, very powerful. So I want every American to know we are doing everything we can, and these are important next steps,” Trump said.

“We believe these therapeutics and others under evaluation right now will be able to provide relief to many Americans. We really hope that's going to be. This could be a tremendous breakthrough, tremendous breakthrough. And we will work toward a much-needed vaccine in the future, as I said,” he said.


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