Coronavirus numbers are on the increase across the United States, and so is the debate about hydroxychloroquine as a treatment and preventative. Senator Joe Pennacchio today said the politically fueled controversy is interfering with doctors who are scrambling to save lives.
Citing a series of credible medial studies and reports, Senator Pennacchio renewed his call for the Murphy Administration to allow doctors to prescribe HCQ to protect patients from COVID-19. (©iStock)
“Across the nation, the politicization of medicine has made hydroxychloroquine a cause célèbre,” said Pennacchio. “Here, in New Jersey, we should be above that. Our priority must be on saving lives and keeping residents healthy. We can’t allow petty partisanship to obstruct sensible medical protocol and solid science.”
The Garden State was one of the first state’s impacted by the virus outbreak, and has the second highest number of COVID deaths behind only New York. Infection rates and deaths have slowed, and some restrictions have been eased by the Governor.
“The threat level is down, but the pandemic has not gone away,” said Pennacchio. “Now is the time to unshackle our doctors and allow them to trust their training, experience and instincts. If they choose to, let them treat residents with hydroxychloroquine. This isn’t a new experimental pharmaceutical out of a lab somewhere. It is a proven, safe medicine with a 60-year track record.
Since the onset of the pandemic, Pennacchio has advocated for the allowing doctors to utilize HCQ as a treatment and preventative.
“All along, I have insisted we need to follow the evidence, research and scientific studies,” Pennacchio noted. “Now we are seeing a steady stream of results being published by medical journals and supported by doctors. Unfortunately, the public doesn’t get to benefit from this powerful tool against the virus.
“Our priority must be saving lives and protecting the health of residents. Doctors who believe HCQ is the right option to treat their patients should be allowed to prescribe it.”
Last week, amid growing concerns about a “second wave” of the virus, one of the top epidemiologists in the nation wrote an op-ed for Newsweek under the headline “The Key to Defeating COVID-19 Already Exists. We Need to Start Using It.”
“I am usually accustomed to advocating for positions within the mainstream of medicine, so have been flummoxed to find that, in the midst of a crisis, I am fighting for a treatment that the data fully support but which, for reasons having nothing to do with a correct understanding of the science, has been pushed to the sidelines,” wrote Dr. Harvey Risch, Professor of Epidemiology, Yale School of Public Health. “As a result, tens of thousands of patients with COVID-19 are dying unnecessarily. Fortunately, the situation can be reversed easily and quickly.”
In his op-ed in support of hydroxychloroquine, Risch cited an extensive list of recent studies proving the potential of the drug, long-used to prevent Malaria, to save lives from COVID-19.
Two months before, on May 27, Risch published an article in the world’s leading epidemiology journal, the American Journal of Epidemiology (AJE) entitled, Early Outpatient Treatment of Symptomatic, High-Risk COVID-19 Patients that Should be Ramped-Up Immediately as Key to the Pandemic Crisis. He analyzed five studies, demonstrating clear-cut and significant benefits to treated patients, plus other very large studies that showed the medication safety.
Since then, seven more studies have been published showing similar benefit, Risch said. In a follow-up letter also published by AJE, he discussed these studies and renewed his research-supported call for the immediate early use of hydroxychloroquine in high-risk patients.
“Physicians who have been using [hydroxychloroquine] in the face of widespread skepticism have been truly heroic,” Risch wrote in Newsweek. “They have done what the science shows is best for their patients, often at great personal risk. I myself know of two doctors who have saved the lives of hundreds of patients with these medications, but are now fighting state medical boards to save their licenses and reputations. The cases against them are completely without scientific merit.”
HCQ is an inexpensive oral medication that, when given very early in the course of illness, before the virus has had time to multiply beyond control, has shown to be highly effective, especially when administered in combination with the antibiotics azithromycin or doxycycline and the nutritional supplement zinc, according to Risch.
“The results revealed in Dr. Risch’s writings should be encouraging to all of us as the virus continues to wreak havoc with lives and the economy,” said Pennacchio. “Until Murphy unshackles our doctors, however, New Jerseyans desperate for good news about treatment options that could save their lives are out of luck. I urge the Governor to consider the data, do the right thing, and make public health the No. 1 priority.”
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