Schumer decries use of anti-malaria drug on COVID-19 patients at VA hospitals

D.C. Bureau

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) ─ Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, is accusing the VA of using veterans as guinea pigs to test President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 drug of choice —hydroxychloroquine.

Schumer said Friday that the VA reports it has given the drug to 1,3000 veterans, more than 10% of which are hospitalized with COVID-19. He said he’s unsure whether the VA received permission from the veterans or their families to move forward with the unproven treatment.

“What the heck is the VA doing?” Schumer questioned. “Why the heck is the VA using our veterans, who have risked their lives for us, in a test that could be really harmful to them?”

The concerns come the same day the British Medical Journal “The Lancet” reported on a study that shows using the anti-malaria drug on hospitalized coronavirus patients makes them more likely to die.

Jeremy Butler, CEO of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said he knows the drug well.

“I used it when I was on active duty as an anti-malaria, I was deployed to a spot where malaria is common, it’s very common,” he said.

But Butler said he wants to know what the VA has learned about the safety and effectiveness of the drug against the coronavirus.

In a statement, the Department of Veterans Affairs said it, “only permits use of the drug after ensuring veterans and caretakers are aware of potential risks associated with it.”

Schumer said he wants to know what happened to the 1,300 veterans who took the drug before the VA gives it to more patients.

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