In an effort to prove Donald Trump’s claim that the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is some sort of wonder cure for COVID-19, Republicans in Texas are using nursing home patients as experimental subjects.
According to a new report from NPR, a Texas nursing home started giving the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to dozens of elderly patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and tracking the outcomes in what he’s calling an “observational study.”
Some of the patients suffer from dementia and are being administered the drug without explicit consent from the patient or family members, NPR writes.
According to the news outlet, the controversial decision to administer hydroxychloroquine at The Resort at Texas City over the last few days was made by Robin Armstrong, a physician and medical director of the nursing home.
From the report:
“Armstrong, who is a prominent GOP activist, called Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. He says Patrick reached out to Texas state Sen. Bryan Hughes, also a Republican, who knew someone on the board of the New Jersey-based company Amneal Pharmaceuticals. The company, which makes and distributes the drug, has donated more than a million tablets nationwide, including to the states of Texas and Louisiana.”
“It’s actually going well. People are getting better,” Armstrong said, according to NPR.
But scientists argue that relying on observational, uncontrolled evidence can be misleading and that the only way to truly prove a drug is working is through carefully controlled clinical trials. And, contrary to Armstrong’s assertion that hydroxychloroquine “has virtually no side effects,” it is known to have serious negative health impacts. That is why so many in the medical community worry about prescribing it without such proof.
“This is really disconcerting,” Katherine Seley-Radtke, a medicinal chemist at The University of Maryland, Baltimore County who specializes in antiviral drug research, including coronaviruses, told NPR.
Armstrong admitted to the news outlet that “it is difficult to quantify how much of his elderly patients’ improvement is due to the malaria drug or how they would have fared without it.” He was unable to explain why other patients are not responding to the tablet doses.