NYC health officials clash on use of anti-malarial drug to treat coronavirus

Two of the city’s leading doctors gave opposing views on the controversial use of an anti-malarial drug to treat patients in local hospitals.

President Donald Trump has trumpeted hydroxychloroquine as a potential life-saver, although there is no scientific proof showing it helps fight COVID-19.

The Post reported Sunday that as many as 4,000 seriously ill coronavirus patients across the state are being treated with hydroxychloroquine, including through clinical trials at NYU Langone Medical School in Manhattan.

At a press conference with Mayor Bill de Blasio at the Brooklyn Navy Yard Monday, Dr. Eric Wei, chief quality officer for the city’s Health + Hospitals system, said the drug was prevalent in his treatment regimes.

“We have multiple types of treatments, studies underway to see what’s working best.

“Many of our patients are receiving hydroxychloroquine, or Plaquenil, as part of those treatment regimens,” Wei said using the brand name for the pharmaceutical that’s long been used for malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

But on Tuesday, at another press briefing with de Blasio in Manhattan, Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot downplayed the city’s use of the drug.

“Health + Hospitals in collaboration with other hospital systems throughout the city have been looking at any and all potential therapies to help save as many New Yorkers as possible and hydroxychloroquine is one of those early medications.

“I think that there have been to date very few patients actually able to take the medication,” Barbot said Tuesday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, citing Dr. Mitchell Katz, the head of Health + Hospitals, added at Tuesday’s briefing that the drug is being used to treat some extremely sick COVID-19 patients, but there’s “not a broader effort” to administer the treatment because of negative side effects to older and vulnerable people.

Barbot and Wei agreed on one thing — the unproven efficacy of the drug to help coronavirus patients.

“I think it’s still too early to tell. I think we are still looking at the data. But right now we’re willing to try just about anything to save patients,” Wei said Monday.

Barbot echoed that Tuesday, telling reporters that “it’s too early to say what the clinical benefit has been.”

Reps for the officials and for the mayor did not immediately return messages seeking clarification on their divergent views.

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