Australia to get virus ‘miracle drug’
Health minister Greg Hunt has struck a deal to bring a so-called virus wonder drug touted by US President Donald Trump, hydroxychloroquine, into Australia.
Speaking on A Current Affair, Mr Hunt said he was "just off a call" with an international supplier organising a deal to get the drug into Australia and that it was "breaking news".
Asked about the possibility of having a vaccine specifically for COVID-19 soon, Mr Hunt said Australia is "helping to lead the world a realistic time frame on" a vaccine, but it wasn't here yet.
"We would rather put out there preventions, hydroxychloroquine, things such as that.
"I'm confident we will have a significant supply of hydroxychloroquine, which will be available, if doctors wish to use them with patients who are in hospital. Those are the terms.
"That is breaking news."
Hydroxychloroquine is a drug used to treat patients with lupus or other immune deficiency diseases and was available here before COVID-19 sent global suppliers into a lockdown on the remaining resources of it.
US President Donald Trump had said that hydroxychloroquine could be among "the biggest game changers in the history of medicine" for its potential effects against COVID-19.
Mr Trump had touted the possible benefits of the drug on social media and in press conferences, saying he had a "hunch".
"Hopefully they will … be put into use immediately," he posted on Twitter to his 75 million followers. " PEOPLE ARE DYING."
Not everyone is convinced of its efficacy to treat coronavirus patients, even in concert with other drugs.
National President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Professor Chris Freeman said last month that in recent weeks there had been "a real rush in pharmacies for the drug hydroxychloroquine".
But he said it was not clear if it is effective in fighting the novel coronavirus COVID-19.
Medical professionals are still uncertain over the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment and Mr Freeman said in Australia the drug was being used strictly in ICU "under the context of a clinical trial".
In this way the treatment may potentially help people while simultaneously "gathering evidence" regarding whether hydroxychloroquine "actually works," he said.
According to Mr Freeman "there is an indication it might be effective," but he doesn't "want to give people false hope if the medicine is proved to be not effective".
#Hydroxychloroquine has been in NY trials now for a week. We are hearing NOTHING about it's effectiveness.— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) April 1, 2020
When asked by host Tracy Grimshaw if the drug was deemed to be a "cure" or our "best chance", Mr Hunt said experts were "cautiously hopeful" that the drug "can have an impact".
"It's not a perfect cure, it's not a perfect prevention, it's not fully proven but there have been some promising trials around the world.
"This will allow us the capacity to expand those trials in Australia."
The European Commission said there was no evidence that the drug touted by President Trump as a potential miracle cure against COVID-19 was effective against the disease.
"The efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of COVID-19 patients has to date not been proved," a spokesman for the European Commission said on Tuesday, relaying an internal opinion from the European Medicine Agency.
Greg Hunt's deal would see supplies of the drug imported and made available for treatment of COVID-19 patients.
After studies indicated the drug hydroxychloroquine might aid in the treatment of COVID-19, many pharmacies across Australia have found themselves in short supply.
Mr Freeman said stockpiling of the drug will mean "if we do find out this is really effective, it won't be able to save a life because it's sitting on someone's shelf", Sky News reported.
- with Reuters
Originally published as Australia to get virus 'miracle drug'
‘It’s too early to make any determination”...Fauci on hydroxychloroquine..— Mika Brzezinski (@morningmika) March 31, 2020