Trump orders FDA to fast-track drugs for possible COVID-19 treatment

March 19 (UPI) — President Donald Trump said Thursday U.S. regulators are looking at utilizing therapies that are still in the testing phase and some already approved for other uses, like malaria, in the fight against coronavirus.

In a briefing at the White House, Trump ordered the Food and Drug Administration to look into making the treatments — which include the generic malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and the antiviral medication remdesivir — available to the public.

“Individual states will handle it, doctors will handle it, I think it’s going to be great,” he said. “It could be a game-changer.”

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said the agency is seeking to fast-track hydroxychloroquine for use in coronavirus patients, while working with drugmaker Gilead in setting up protocols for a large remdesivir trial.

Clinical data could also be collected by doctors using the drug in compassionate care cases, he said.

Trump praised Hahn for “removing barriers” and voiced confidence the United States will beat the coronavirus pandemic, which he again called “the Chinese virus,” a term that’s angered the government in Beijing.

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Vice President Mike Pence said shortages of medical equipment are quickly being addressed. He said as many as 35 million new industrial face masks by 3M are now available to the healthcare sector after liability laws were changed this week.

Pence also said tens of thousands of critical ventilators can be modified for medical uses.

Wednesday, Trump invoked the Defense Production Act — a rarely-used emergency power established in 1950 — to help spur the manufacture of critical medical supplies and signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which guarantees sick leave to workers.

The legislation provides as many as 10 days of paid sick leave for some workers, enhanced unemployment insurance and free coronavirus testing. It also contains protections for frontline workers, increased federal funds for Medicaid and more than $1 billion to strengthen food security initiatives.

The White House is working with Congress to finalize a $1 trillion package, which includes stimulus payments to most Americans.

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