Medical Ignorance

Despite whether you approve of the current president or not, there is no excuse for him to use the power of his office to promote his own medical advice. It has already been proven to be lethal.

A Phoenix-area man has died and his wife was in critical condition after the couple took chloroquine phosphate, CBS affiliate KPHO reported. The additive used to clean fish tanks that is also found in an anti-malaria medication that’s been touted by President Donald Trump as a treatment for COVID-19.

Banner Health said Monday that the couple in their 60s got sick within half an hour of ingesting the additive. The man couldn’t be resuscitated when he arrived at a hospital, but the woman was able to throw up much of the chemical, Banner said.

Arizona man dies, wife ill after taking drug touted as virus treatment: “Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure” MARCH 24, 2020, CBS/AP

Past presidents have urged the public to follow the advice of medical experts. That is not what this president did. He said he “believed” chloroquine would be an effective treatment for COVID-19. This is a transparent attempt to try to make himself look better in the face of mounting evidence that his administration’s failures to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in the rapid spread of disease in the United States. And has put the lives of medical personnel at great risk due to the lack of personal protective equipment because manufacturing wasn’t ramped up as it should have been. And now is overwhelming healthcare systems across the nation.

I spent my career doing medical research. Assuring patients won’t suffer from one’s proposed study is an essential part of approving and monitoring medical research projects. An independent board of medical experts and the public evaluates the safety of the proposed research study. The study can’t start until that board is convinced it will not harm the study subjects. And that appropriate monitoring for adverse effects is included.

All medical personnel involved in research are required to pass research medical certifications periodically (usually once a year) to review the guidelines for participating in research. Much of that is related to patient safety considerations.

I’ve appreciated director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci’s clear statements about the coronavirus and what is needed to try to treat people and constrain the spread of the disease as best we can. I admire how he has refused to go along with the president’s ignorant statements. It is disconcerting to see he wasn’t at the last coronavirus task force presentation.

Probably not many people remember the horrible side effects of the use of Thalidomide in the early 1960’s. The drug was believed to be safe for use in pregnancy, to treat anxiety and morning sickness. But severe birth defects occurred and the drug was removed from the marked in Europe. Fortunately the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had not approved its use in the United States.

When first released, thalidomide was promoted for anxietytrouble sleeping, “tension”, and morning sickness.[6][9] While initially deemed to be safe in pregnancy, concerns regarding birth defects were noted in 1961 and the medication was removed from the market in Europe that year.[6][5] The total number of people affected by use during pregnancy is estimated at 10,000, of which about 40% died around the time of birth.[6][3] Those who survived had limb, eye, urinary tract, and heart problems.[5] Its initial entry into the US market was prevented by Frances Kelsey at the FDA.[9] The birth defects of thalidomide led to the development of greater drug regulation and monitoring in many countries.[9][5]

Thalidomide

This became a textbook example of the potential risks of inadequate attention to safety. That is why I am horrified by the president’s uninformed idea to simply see if chloroquine works, i.e. to introduce it into the market with no study of its safety and efficacy.

But there is another potential medical disaster that will result in many, many more deaths if the president forces a loosening of social distancing and other restrictions in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. It is clear that his administration wants to reduce the negative impact these measures are having on the economy. Any competent medical expert would strongly oppose such a move.

Beyond the medical ignorance, or simply disregard, the president and his party have a history of putting corporate profits ahead of the welfare of the people. The current negotiations of a multi-trillion dollar bill clearly show the divide between a party that once again wants to enrich corporations at the same time not addressing the urgent needs of the people.


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