If a drug is proven to be safe, is Food and Drug Administration-approved, has been administered hundreds of millions of times, and your doctor believes that it might possibly help your health, would you want access to that drug?
Of course you would.
You would want the right to try it, even if you weren’t sure it would be effective. Yet, the right to try a pharmaceutical that is safe and possibly effective is being denied throughout this country.
I led the fight that my predecessor in Congress, Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon, a Republican, had started in order to gain access to potentially lifesaving drugs that had not been fully approved by the FDA. The “Right to Try” legislation allowed for the use of drugs that had cleared phase one of FDA trials — the trials that determine drug safety.
President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence joined in supporting the effort, and the bill eventually passed both chambers of Congress in a bipartisan fashion. Trump signed the bill into law.
I did not anticipate that just a couple of years later, in the middle of a pandemic, that the medical establishment, primarily public health officials, would prevent the use of a medicine that has been proven safe and has been approved by the FDA. In fact, the drug has been used for almost 80 years and is safer than some over-the-counter pain relievers.
The drug I’m speaking about has been studied relentlessly. In fact, several months ago, the World Health Organization released a paper indicating that there were two identified drugs that showed promise as a prophylaxis and therapeutic: remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine. Oddly, when WHO officials issued a statement and announced their findings, they only mentioned remdesivir and were silent on hydroxychloroquine.
In numerous studies released since the COVID-19 outbreak, researchers have observed the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine when used early in the treatment process. Conversely, the studies most often cited against the use of hydroxychloroquine have been debunked (a paper from the prestigious medical journal Lancet was retracted within two weeks of publication), used dubious methods (researchers administered lethal rather than standard doses of hydroxychloroquine), or gave hydroxychloroquine exclusively to patients already hospitalized and near death.
Dozens of studies indicate that if a person with COVID-19 symptoms begins a regimen of hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and azithromycin, they have a better chance of surviving the disease.
You may say, “Oh, you’re just a congressman. What do you know?” That’s fair. But I have seen indications that hydroxychloroquine may be effective, and I know that it is both safe and FDA-approved.
At the same time, public health officials are fighting against a patient’s right to try hydroxychloroquine. In some states, such as Arizona, edicts by public officials have effectively criminalized the opportunity for a doctor to prescribe hydroxychloroquine for anything other than rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or malaria prevention. In other states, doctors who have defied these officials and written prescriptions for hydroxychloroquine in cases of COVID-19 have been turned in by pharmacists and threatened with losing their licenses to practice medicine.
One must ask why we have to fight for the right to try yet again? With drugs that are safe and approved, doctors and patients must be allowed to make the decision about what is best. The choice should not be made by healthcare bureaucrats.
And if hydroxychloroquine is effective when used early, as so many studies indicate, then lives will be saved.
Once again, the people must fight the medical establishment so we can have the right to try.
Rep. Andy Biggs represents Arizona’s 5th Congressional District.