Coronavirus update: US sees steady resurgence as FDA puts nail in coffin of hydroxychloroquine debate
The corona virus spread to the world on Monday, hitting Brazil particularly hard as both the US and China struggled with a flood of new cases that challenged the recent wave of gradual easing of restrictions.
Regardless, the Food and Drug Administration seemed to end a polarizing debate on hydroxychloroquine by ripping its emergency number. The drug was once touted as a potential game changer by President Donald Trump in the fight against COVID-19, but has been associated with fatal side effects since then.
In total, the virus has now affected almost 8 million people worldwide, of whom more than 433,000 have been reported dead. In the United States, more than 2 million cases have been reported and more than 115,000 died in a case surge in over half a dozen states, which shows worrying multi-day tendencies of the surge.
In China, where the virus first appeared, Beijing reported a modest increase in cases related to a food market, causing the government to adopt a "war stance". Brazil has since become an avatar of a Latin American region that has quickly become a global hotspot.
Although many public health officials claim that the waves in the US are part of the first wave of the virus, stocks and oil eased on Monday due to concerns that a second wave could hit the fall / winter season earlier than expected.
Officials have raised concerns about states like Texas, Florida, Arizona, and California - which have some of the most restrictive regulations on the books but have still seen an increase in COVID-19 diagnoses recently. The Golden State has now reported 5,000 deaths and nearly 150,000 deaths.
There are over 2 million coronavirus cases in the United States (graphic: David Foster / Yahoo Finance)
The FDA is withdrawing emergency use for malaria medication
On Monday, the FDA revoked the emergency approval (EUA) for hydroxychloroquine, an extremely controversial treatment that Trump has hailed as potential coronavirus treatment - but has been questioned by its own coronavirus task force and other public health officials.
In a letter to Monday, the FDA stated that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are no longer safe for the treatment of COVID-19. In a recent interview with Yahoo Finance, a former FDA official said the initial EUA was "unnecessary ... (and) probably politically motivated".
The FDA said, "It is no longer reasonable to believe that oral formulations of (hydroxychloroquine) and (chloroquine) can be effective in the treatment of COVID-19, nor is it reasonable to believe that the known and potential benefits these products outweigh the known and outweigh the potential risks ”in a letter to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a branch of the United States Department of Health (HHS).
A bottle and tablets of hydroxychloroquine stand on a counter on May 20, 2020 at Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah. - President Donald Trump announced on May 18 that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure against COVID-19 for almost two weeks. (Photo by GEORGE FREY / AFP) (Photo by GEORGE FREY / AFP via Getty Images)
While the revocation is not unprecedented, the drug controversy and political undertones brought it to the fore during the pandemic. The surge in demand caused by increasing public relations also led to bottlenecks among the patients who need the drug most. The malaria drug is usually used off-label for patients with rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
Before the EUA was withdrawn, the FDA had already warned health professionals about the risks and use of hydroxychloroquine.
The drug has played an important role in disputes in the federal government. It was viewed as an alleged cause for the fall of whistleblower and former BARDA director Rick Bright and resolved internal disagreements between White House officials and NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci, who warned against its use.
The drug had a short but unusually turbulent time in public. Trump has been touting it continuously and recently announced that he took it himself as a preventative measure.
In the meantime, a study at The Lancet that touts the drug's effectiveness has recently been withdrawn after the underlying data has been questioned. Previously, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that it was ineffective and at risk of death.
Companies like Novartis (NVS) and Bayer (BAYRY) donated millions of doses of both drugs to the federal supply earlier this year. Neither of them immediately returned requests for comments from Yahoo Finance Monday.
Progress has been made across the COVID-19 treatment area with some potential candidates - both small and large players.
The treatments mainly focused on reducing hospital time and reducing the body's potential for attack - a so-called cytokine storm - which was a trend among the deceased. In addition, some are trying to reduce acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
Smaller biotech companies are also in the running. To date, companies such as Gilead (GILD), Eli Lilly (LLY), Regeneron (REGN) and Roche (RHHBY) have announced potential treatment candidates, with Gilead being the most advanced in studies.
Smaller biotech companies are also making progress and, according to Michelle McMurry-Heath, President and CEO of BIO, partnerships are emerging on an unprecedented scale.
"What we saw at COVID is an amazing unified answer," she said in a recent interview with Yahoo Finance.
Some of these small biotech names include Athersys, CytoDyn, and Immunic, all of which are at different stages of testing to create treatment regimens.
Anjalee Khemlani is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @AnjKhem
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