Pharmaceutical companies followed the lead of the president, in offering up millions of doses of anti-malaria drugs that could also cure the Corona Virus before any large-scale tests were even complete.
In a press conference on Friday, U.S. President Donald J. Trump said he had a “good feeling” and was “optimistic” that Hydroxychloroquine Sulfate, approved for use against malaria in 1955, would be confirmed as a cure for today’s plague.
The counterpoint was by Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who said that might very well be the case, but, as a scientist, he was insisting that methodical testing be carried out to give certainty in statistics that could bare out the president’s hunch.
That test is a 1,500-patient trial underway, led by the University of Minnesota.
Meanwhile, the drug companies have already stepped forward.
Switzerland-based Novartis said it could donate 130 million doses of the anti-malaria drug, which is also used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, produced by its U.S.-based Sandoz unit.
Novartis said it has 50 million doses in stock and could produce another 80 million by the end of May. That could be sufficient to treat several million patients, depending on the dosing regimen, Novartis said.
Netherlands-based Mylan NV said it has raw materials to produce 50 million doses, enough to treat 1.5 million patients, from mid-April.
And Israeli generic drug giant Teva Pharmaceutical Ltd said it had six million doses that could be sent here to arrive in 10 days.
Germany’s Bayer AG kicked this off on Wednesday, donating 3 million tablets of Resochin, or chloroquine, which is a similar drug, more potent but with more side effects.
The CDC approved the drugs after studies in China, Australia and France found chloroquine with antibiotic azithromycin treated Corona Virus successfully in a week.
If the drug testing confirms those results, that would mean that, remdesivir, produced by Gilead Sciences, that’s now in late-stage testing for use against the Corona Virus, could be unnecessary.
Remdesivir, was first produced to fight Ebola, but proved ineffective. It was then applied to MERS and SARS, which are related to Corona Virus, and had some positive results in animal testing.
Gilead was initially funded and backed by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State George Schultz.
“The company’s HIV drugs continue to rake in billions of dollars in sales. Gilead has emerged as the leader in CAR-T cell therapies for treating cancer. It could also soon stake a claim in the massive immunology market if filgotinib wins FDA approval later this year in treating rheumatoid arthritis.”
But if President Trump’s hunch is right, and old fashioned, out-of-patent chloroquine-based anti-malarial treatment works against the Corona Virus scourge, then Gilead, and its years of research to find a disease for remdesivir, would be out of luck.