Brighton Rehab defends use of hydroxychloroquine, announces it’s COVID-19 free for first time

BEAVER CO., Pa. — Brighton Rehab & Wellness Center, the Beaver County facility that had the worst COVID-19 outbreak in Pennsylvania, announced it is now coronavirus-free for the first time since March.

According to the latest data from health officials, more than 300 residents and 100 staff members at Brighton have tested positive for the virus -- and 73 residents have died.

Have questions about the spread of the coronavirus? We have an entire section dedicated to coverage of the outbreak. CLICK HERE for more.

That big news came Wednesday as the facility also defended its experimental use of hydroxychloroquine to treat and prevent COVID-19. In a statement, Brighton Rehab disputed reports that it didn’t get state approval to give residents the drug.

Some family members of residents are surprised and somewhat skeptical after the months of battling the pandemic.

“At the very beginning they didn’t tell us the truth, so why do we believe them now?” said Judith Marie, whose parent is a resident.

As for hydroxychloroquine, Brighton officials said they stopped using when the FDA revoked the drug’s emergency use authorization in June. Studies now show it can be harmful and is not effective in treating COVID-19.

But back in April, it was still being used experimentally, and Brighton’s medical team gave it to nearly half of its residents (more than 200), saying the team got the residents’ consent. The state, however, said in a just posted inspection report, Brighton failed to get DOH consent and cited them for that failure.

State officials declined to comment on the situation, pointing Channel 11 back to their inspection report -- which cited documents and interviews with staff for its conclusion.

You can see the full statement from Brighton below:

“As residents in nursing homes across the country began dying at alarming rates from the rapid onslaught of the Coronavirus, it became a national medical priority to slow the progression and save lives. When the FDA authorized in March the emergency use of oral formulations of chloroquine phosphate (CQ) and hydroxychloroquine sulfate, our medical team discussed the full details of our plans to incorporate it into our treatment regimens with our partners at the PA Department of Health in a meeting on April 10th, where they granted us their consent and approval. Like all medical treatments, hydroxychloroquine would have to be prescribed by a treating physician, with full prior consent of residents and/or their legal guardians. Facility staff only assist with administering medications. After the FDA revoked the emergency use authorization, our resident’s physicians immediately removed the drug from treatment regimens.

This has been an unprecedented challenge across the country, and as the FDA and DOH guidance continues to evolve, we remain committed to using all approved clinical options to combat the COVID-19 crisis in our facility to keep our residents – who we consider family – safe. This battle against time and disease is not yet won, but at this time the Brighton facility remains free of COVID-19. We will continue to work closely with government health officials in full compliance and alignment with FDA and CDC guidance to provide the best possible care for our residents.”