- A top hydroxychloroquine researcher recommended against President Donald Trump taking the pills as a COVID-19 treatment.
- “I would not give him magic beans, so I would not give him hydroxychloroquine,” Dr. David Boulware said Friday morning in a phone interview with Business Insider. “This is not going to be an effective therapy.”
- Boulware is an infectious-disease researcher at the University of Minnesota.
- Earlier this year, he led clinical trials that found hydroxychloroquine didn’t help prevent infection or treat disease for this novel coronavirus.
- “My guess is he’s going to get real therapy,” Boulware said, highlighting monoclonal antibodies and convalescent plasma as potential treatment options.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A leading coronavirus-treatment researcher told Business Insider that he recommends against President Donald Trump taking the malaria treatment called hydroxychloroquine for his coronavirus infection.
Dr. David Boulware, an infectious-disease researcher at the University of Minnesota, ran clinical trials earlier this year that found hydroxychloroquine was ineffective at treating the novel coronavirus.
“I would not give him magic beans, so I would not give him hydroxychloroquine,” Boulware said Friday morning in a phone interview. “This is not going to be an effective therapy.”
On Friday, the president said that he and First Lady Melania Trump tested positive for the virus and had begun isolating. The White House said that both are “well at this time.” It hasn’t said what if any treatments they are receiving.
Boulware hasn’t examined the president and isn’t involved in his treatment. He said that taking into consideration all the research done on hydroxychloroquine, other therapies now show significantly more promise. The US National Institutes of Health also recommends against the use of hydroxychloroquine in its coronavirus treatment guidelines.
“The totality of the evidence is there is still no effect,” Boulware said of the pills, which were first approved in the 1950s and are widely used today to treat malaria and lupus.
Instead, he said that treatments based on the body’s own disease-fighting proteins, called antibodies, are more promising. He pointed to antibody drugs being developed by Eli Lilly and Regeneron, as well as to a blood-based treatment called convalescent plasma. Both drugmakers released early data in September from trials showing promise for their therapies.
“There actually are legitimate therapies that there is some evidence behind,” he said. “The monoclonal antibodies, the Eli Lilly data, look much better than hydroxychloroquine ever could be.”
The FDA issued an emergency approval for convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19, though NIH’s guidelines say it’s still not clear whether convalescent plasma is a useful coronavirus treatment.
Antibody drugs are still being tested in clinical trials and have yet to be approved by regulators. Trump could potentially get an antibody treatment through a compassionate-use request, which allows sick individuals access to treatments that aren’t approved by regulators.
A Regeneron spokesperson said the company has “limited product available for compassionate use requests that are approved under certain exceptional circumstances on a case-by-case basis.” The spokesperson declined to comment specifically on Trump.
In May, Trump said he was taking hydroxychloroquine for 10 days as a preventive treatment, despite a lack of clinical evidence showing it works. In June, the US Food and Drug Administration revoked hydroxychloroquine’s emergency approval, citing a lack of evidence showing the drug worked. Doctors can still prescribe the pills to treat COVID-19 in what is known as an off-label use of a medication.
Throughout much of the spring, Trump also touted hydroxychloroquine by name at press conferences and other public events. After Trump’s valet was exposed to the virus in May, the White House’s doctor contacted Boulware to learn more about his research. Boulware said he shared recommendations and dosage strength with the physician.
Boulware ran high-quality trials that found no benefit for hydroxychloroquine compared to a placebo group. Results were published in top peer-reviewed journals, including The New England Journal of Medicine.
“There’s no data that there’s a substantial, clinically meaningful benefit for hydroxychloroquine as early therapy,” he said. “What we found was it did not improve symptoms faster than placebo, even when given with zinc.”
Biotech analysts at the investment bank Raymond James ranked six potential treatments by the likelihood that they are prescribed to Trump, in an note to investors sent Friday.
They said Regeneron’s and Eli Lilly’s antibody drugs are the most likely options,, followed by Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug remdesivir, convalescent plasma, steroids, and, lastly, hydroxychloroquine.