Investigate Good, Existing Covid Therapies

Originally published here by the Wall Street Journal on April 11, 2021. 

We appreciate former FDA Commissioners Scott Gottlieb’s and Mark McClellan’s belated realization that a “good weapon for the Covid arsenal would be a safe and effective drug that could be taken at home” (“Covid Arsenal Needs Pills as Well as Shots,” op-ed, April 5).

Unfortunately, it took them over a year to use their reputations to call for such common-sense action. Meanwhile, more than 500,000 died under federal guidelines that in effect say, “Isolate at home and do nothing until you are so sick you require hospitalization.”

Fortunately, there are doctors with the compassion to ignore this callous approach and instead save lives. Yet media and agencies have vilified these courageous physicians. The New York Times even labeled some as “snake-oil salesmen” for pointing out that early treatment is essential.

Sen. Johnson has written to agencies asking what resources were devoted to exploring repurposed drugs. This has yielded little to no response, leading us to assume those agencies have done little to no such research. This must change.

Drs. Gottlieb and McClellan say therapeutic antibodies and drugs like remdesivir and dexamethasone have been the only options. We disagree and have published detailed reviews of successful early treatment.

Thousands of lives have been saved.

Two drugs used, ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, have two of the best safety records on the market, with billions of doses safely prescribed.

The former commissioners suggest judging drugs on whether they “shorten the duration of symptoms or reduce viral load”—poorly measured and unimportant outcomes compared with hospitalization and mortality. We already have evidence for generics reducing Covid death rates. Agencies should devote their efforts to confirming these results instead of chasing new, more expensive drugs.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.)
Oshkosh, Wis.

Prof. Harvey Risch, M.D., Ph.D.
Yale School of Public Health
New Haven, Conn.