No bar exam? No problem! Every day Donald Trump is president, we wake up in a brand new issue spotter. Today’s scenario comes courtesy of a Trump supporter in Texas who got so excited by the president’s constant hyping of the supposed miracle drug hydroxychloroquine that he thought he’d conduct his own experiment to prove its efficacy.
There is currently no proof that the anti-malarial medication, which is commonly used to treat lupus, improves outcomes for coronavirus patients. Indeed, a hospital in France just halted a test of the drug, finding that the treatment protocol that pairs it with the antibiotic azithromycin cumulatively poses an unacceptable risk of heart damage. But Dr. Robin Armstrong, a GOP activist who sits on the advisory board of Black Voices for Trump, is convinced that the president’s prodigious gut instinct is correct, that hydroxychloroquine will save us from this deadly virus.
And because Dr. Armstrong is the medical director at The Resort, a nursing home in Texas City, he has access to a whole pool of subjects to “prove” it. So when 83 people at the facility, including residents and employees, tested positive for COVID-19, he selected 27 of them to start a regimen of hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets recently donated to the state of Texas by New Jersey-based Amneal Pharmaceuticals. The Galveston County Daily News reports that, “Armstrong said Trump’s championing of the drug is giving doctors more access to try it on coronavirus patients.”
Dr. Armstrong didn’t tell the patients’ families that they were receiving the drug, although he assured the paper that he was in the process of giving them a heads up on Monday. But Texas Governor Greg Abbott appears to have beaten him to the punch, announcing at a press conference that day in Austin that the drug was being given to the nursing home residents experimentally, to “determine whether or not it will be a successful treatment for those patients.”
“We look forward to updating you as the week progresses about how this drug is aiding — or not — these patients,” he said.
According to The Houston Chronicle, the Texas Pharmacy Board limited prescriptions and instructed its members to fill off-label prescriptions only when accompanied by a “written diagnosis from the prescriber consistent with the evidence for its use.” And Dr. Patrice Harris, president of the American Medical Association, “said she personally would not prescribe the drug for a coronavirus patient, saying the risks of severe side-effects are “great and too significant to downplay” without large studies showing the drug is safe and effective.”
Okay, torts students, START YOUR ENGINES. Please limit your answers to one blue book, in the interests of time.
Elizabeth Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.
30 COVID-19 patients in Texas City nursing home treated with unproven malaria drug [Houston Chronicle]
Texas City COVID-19 patients receive hydroxychloroquine [Galveston Daily News]
Texas City nursing home residents with coronavirus being treated with unproven hydroxychloroquine drug [Texas Tribune]