Weigh Risks and Benefits of COVID-19 Response, Advises AAPS

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A new group called US Healthcare Providers for Federal Action Against COVID-19 has launched a petition on change.org calling for an immediate national quarantine.

At its March 20 board of directors meeting, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) recommended rational consideration of the risks and benefits of responses to this pandemic.

Critically important is the right to try safe treatments without being obstructed by the FDA. AAPS directors noted that FDA approved a potential cure for COVID-19 half a century ago. Chloroquine (CQ) and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) have been widely used against malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Physicians can legally prescribe CQ and HCQ now, AAPS directors stated, and independent physicians are doing so. Recent studies from France and China report excellent results. Research on the effects of CQ on coronavirus and other viruses—and the body’s destructive cytokine response—dates back to 2003.

Employed physicians may be unwilling to prescribe CQ or HCQ because of pressure from insurers or hospitals, AAPS has observed, as they do not have FDA approval for this specific indication. Adding indications to a drug label requires costly, time-consuming studies. Thus, a large proportion of all prescriptions are written for “off-label” uses.

“Without this medical freedom, physicians could not provide the best care, and some diseases would have no treatment at all,” states AAPS.

Besides dramatically reducing symptoms, these drugs are stated to quickly reduce infectivity, especially when combined with the common antibiotic azithromycin.

Supplies of these formerly cheap and abundant drugs are running short, some directors reported, though manufacturers are said to be ramping up production. One company claimed, according to a Texas physician, to be able to produce vast quantities at pennies per dose within a week—if it could buy ingredients.

“If we withhold treatment while waiting for a vaccine, which may never happen, or a new, very costly drug, thousands could unnecessarily wind up on a ventilator—or die,” AAPS directors said.

Side effects of the drugs include severe rashes, retinal or kidney damage, hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance problems. Fatal heart rhythms could occur in patients with a certain rare EKG finding—also a possibility with azithromycin. These events are rare, in the experience of AAPS specialists, but must be considered in prescribing.

Because of the government’s lockdown, hundreds of thousands have already lost their jobs in California alone. Deaths from impoverishment and chaos could exceed those that might—or might not—be prevented by indiscriminate quarantine.

“We must not kill the economy while refusing to recruit an old ally against the disease,” AAPS states.