By Aram Roston and Marisa Taylor
WASHINGTON, April 7 (Reuters). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have removed highly unusual guidelines from their website that inform doctors about how to prescribe hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, drugs recommended by President Donald Trump for the treatment of coronavirus.
The move comes three days after Reuters reported that the CDC has released important dosage information for the two antimalarials based on unrelated anecdotes and not on scientifically proven scientific evidence.
Reuters also reported that the original guidelines were drawn up by the CDC after President Trump personally urged federal regulators and health officials to make anti-malarial drugs more widely available for the treatment of the novel coronavirus, although the drugs in question for COVID-19 had not been tested.
Initially, the CDC website, entitled “Physician Information on Therapeutic Options for Patients With COVID-19,” said: “Although the optimal dosage and duration of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 are unknown, some US physicians have been anecdotal reports “to prescribe the drug from COVID-19.
Specialists had told Reuters that they were surprised by this language. “Why should CDC publish anecdotes?” asked Dr. Lynn Goldman, dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. “It doesn’t make sense. It’s very unusual.”
Doctors and other health experts continued to criticize the guidelines, suggesting that doctors could prescribe the medication if it is not known whether it is effective or harmful, or not.
The CDC website no longer contains this information. Instead, the first sentence says, “There are no drugs or other therapeutic agents approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration to prevent or treat COVID-19.”
The updated and abbreviated guidelines add that “Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine are being studied in clinical trials” for use in coronavirus patients.
To read the new CDC manual, click https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/therapeutic-options.html
The CDC did not immediately respond to questions about removing the original guidelines. In a statement, she originally told Reuters that, at the request of a coronavirus task force, she had prepared guidelines for doctors to take immediate action.
Jeffrey Flier, a former Dean of Harvard Medical School who criticized the original guidance, welcomed the updated version and called it “significantly improved”.
“It gives the facts, without actually recommending that doctors prescribe the medication when there is insufficient evidence,” said Flier.
The debate about hydroxychloroquine has intensified and become more political when President Trump said this weekend that he might want to take the drug himself. (Reporting by Aram Roston and Marisa Taylor in Washington. Edited by Ronnie Greene)