Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie is taking advocacy of an unproven drug for the coronavirus even farther than President Donald Trump, claiming without evidence that it’s safe and that it has been effective for young and middle-aged veterans in particular.
THE FACTS: He mischaracterized the study’s findings as he delved into an area of speculation by amateurs that his own agency has called “inaccurate and irresponsible.”
Wilkie rejected a study that relies on his department’s own hospital data and finds no benefit from hydroxychloroquine. His claim that it helps younger or middle-aged veterans with COVID-19 is also unsubstantiated.
It’s true that the study, done by independent researchers at two universities with VA approval, was not a rigorous experiment. Yet with 368 patients, it’s the largest look so far at hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19, based on VA hospital data.
Researchers analyzed medical records of male veterans hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus infection at Veterans Health Administration medical centers who died or were discharged by April 11.
About 28% who were given hydroxychloroquine plus usual care died, versus 11% of those getting routine care alone.
Even though people given the drug tended to be sicker than the comparison group, researchers statistically adjusted for that and still saw no benefit from the drug.
There is no other published evidence that the drug is safe or effective for younger veterans with COVID-19.
WILKIE, asked whether it’s safe to encourage people to take hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 treatment: “Oh, I think so.” — interview Wednesday on MSNBC.
THE FACTS: That’s not what the government’s top health experts have said for weeks, nor what his own agency has suggested. The new FDA alert further underscores why the drug cannot be considered generally safe in this pandemic and why it has not been approved by the FDA for treatment of COVID-19.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie is taking advocacy of an unproven drug for the coronavirus even farther than President Donald Trump, claiming without evidence that it's...