WASHINGTON — Medical experts testified on Capitol Hill Thursday about the need to develop outpatient COVID-19 treatments for infected people who are recovering at home instead of a hospital.
“A national calamity of unimaginable mortality is right around the corner,” said Dr. Peter McCullough, the Vice Chair of Internal Medicine at Baylor University Medical Center. “I’m asking for the government to organize all government agencies that are related to this to assist doctors rapidly with their innovation and their compassionate care of patients with COVID-19 at home,” McCullough said.
So much of the focus has been on getting a COVID-19 vaccine and the witnesses said more efforts also need to be put into developing treatments as COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket in the U.S.
“We still need to develop effective therapies particularly in the early stages of the disease,” said the Senate committee chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).
One drug in particular was at the center of the testimony: the controversial treatment, hydroxychloroquine.
President Trump promoted the drug earlier this year and said he was taking hydroxychloroquine.
But the FDA pulled the emergency approval for it in June and said hydroxychloroquine is unlikely to be effective in treating COVID-19.
It was clear the witnesses testifying had a stark difference in opinions about the drug.
“Every outpatient study of hydroxychloroquine has shown benefit,” said Dr. Harvey Risch, a professor of epidemiology at Yale University.
“Every single high-quality study has failed to find any benefit of hydroxychloroquine for COVID- 19,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the Dean of the School of Public Health for Brown University. “Authorizing therapies due to political pressure or with little to no data does far more harm than good.”
Remdesivir was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat COVID-19 but that drug is for hospitalized patients, not ones treating the disease at home.
There currently are not any FDA-approved outpatient treatments for COVID-19.