- The VA said the drug was being administered at the final stages of a veteran's life.
- But there's evidence suggesting that the drug is not only ineffective but harmful to patients and is connected to heart complications and a higher risk of death.
- The US Food and Drug Administration has not approved hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19.
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The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has given the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to 1,300 people infected with the coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19, despite evidence that the medication is not only ineffective but could be harmful.
The revelation of the drug's use on veterans was made after Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer questioned the VA on its recent large order of the medication and its intended use of it, according to USA Today. The VA responded to the senator's inquiry and said the drug had been administered to about 1,300 of the 10,000 veterans that they are treating for the disease. The medication was also mainly given to veterans at the final stages of their life, according to the VA.
Schumer posted a document on Twitter containing the VA's response.
"VA, like so many medical facilities across this Nation, is in a race to keep patients alive during this pandemic, and we are using as many tools as we can," reads the document shared by Schumer.
The drug hydroxychloroquine entered national discourse at the beginning of the pandemic as a potential treatment for COVID-19. President Donald Trump had repeatedly endorsed chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine at his press briefings as an experimental treatment to fight COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Last week, Trump said that he had been taking the drug in a bid to avoid contracting the coronavirus.
But although the drug is approved to treat other ailments, such as lupus, it has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of the coronavirus disease.
And a study of over 96,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients conducted by researchers at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found that the antimalarial drug did not benefit those infected with the disease. The study, which is the largest of its kind to analyze COVID-19 patients, instead found that the medication was associated with heart complications and a higher risk of death.
In April, even doctors at the VA said the drug was ineffective in helping people fight COVID-19 and could even increase the risk of death, as Reuters reports.
The VA said it will keep administering the drug. The agency also said that it was not swayed by the White House to dispense the medication.
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