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Sen. Schumer to the VA: What Were You Thinking?

The top Democrat wants details on the agency's use of hydroxychloroquine
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 10, 2020 2:50 PM CDT
Updated May 10, 2020 4:50 PM CDT

(Newser) – The Senate’s top Democrat on Sunday called on the Department of Veterans Affairs to explain why it allowed the use of an unproven drug on veterans for the coronavirus, saying patients may have been put at unnecessary risk, the AP reports. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said the VA needs to provide Congress more information about a recent bulk order for $208,000 worth of hydroxychloroquine. President Trump has heavily promoted the malaria drug, without evidence, as a treatment for COVID-19. Schumer's request comes after a whistleblower complaint filed this past week by former Health and Human Services official Rick Bright alleged that the Trump administration, eager for a quick coronavirus cure, wanted to "flood" hot spots in New York and New Jersey with the drug.

Major veterans organizations have urged VA to explain under what circumstances VA doctors initiate discussion of hydroxychloroquine with veterans as a treatment option. "There are concerns that they are using this drug when the medical evidence says it doesn't help and could hurt," says Schumer. He also says VA Secretary Robert Wilkie must address whether the White House applied any pressure, and why VA hospital data shows more deaths among patients given hydroxychloroquine versus standard care. A VA spokeswoman Noel called it "preposterous" for anyone to suggest that VA would make treatment decisions based on anything other than "the best medical interests of patients."

(Read more veterans stories.)

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