The government started stockpiling donated hydroxychloroquine in late March, after President Trump touted it as “very encouraging” and “very powerful” and a “game-changer.”
That leaves the Strategic National Stockpile with 63 million doses of hydroxychloroquine, plus another 2 million doses of chloroquine, a related drug donated by Bayer, according to Carol Danko, a spokesperson for the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Many public health experts point to all of this as an unfortunate chapter in the history of the pandemic thus far.
“Nationally, we put a great emphasis on one drug, hydroxychloroquine,” said David Holtgrave, the dean of the School of Public Health at the University at Albany, who co-authored a study of the drug as a treatment for coronavirus. “I worry that history will judge this as having over-invested in one treatment pathway as opposed to looking more broadly at a larger number of treatment candidates.”
Before the FDA revoked its authorization, the stockpile had already distributed 31 million doses. Novartis and Mylan donated doses of the drug to the stockpile.
“HHS is working with the companies that donated the product to determine the available options for the product that remains in the Strategic National Stockpile,” Danko wrote in a statement to CNN.
Last month, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn wrote that his agency’s decision to authorize hydroxychloroquine in March “was based on evaluation of the EUA criteria and the scientific evidence available at that time.”
However, many infectious disease experts, including those who’ve studied the drug for coronavirus, say there was never any evidence that the drug worked for the virus.
First, the study didn’t conclude that the drug worked for Covid patients — just that it decreased the amount of the virus found in the nose and throat.
Also, it was a very small study — just 20 patients — and it ignored patients who took hydroxychloroquine and died or ended up in the intensive care unit.