Pence: Administration Making Malaria Pill Available to NY, California, Washington State

Melanie Arter | March 24, 2020 | 2:25pm EDT
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(Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

 ( - The Trump administration is working to make available thousands of doses of a malaria drug found to be effective in treating the coronavirus to state hardest-hit by COVID-19 like Washington state, California, and New York, Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday.

During Fox News’ virtual town hall, Dr. Mehmet Oz asked Pence whether the administration can accelerate clinical trials of the drug so that doctors can treat patients and themselves with it if necessary.



OZ: Mr. Vice President, the French physician who conducted the small pilot study showing that a malaria drug - it’s called hydroxychloroquine, which is basically a malaria pill, and azithromycin, stops the coronavirus infection, told me on my show that denying these medications -- I'm going to quote him -- ‘Is unethical.’ The FDA appropriately requires randomized clinical trials for proof to guide the medical community. 

How can we accelerate these clinical trials while also satisfying the demand for physicians - front-line docs who want these pills for their patients and themselves? Countries like China and France are already using them more widely? And sir, a very personal question, would you take these pills if you felt ill today? 

PENCE: First, Dr. Oz, let me thank you for your encouraging words to the American people throughout the coronavirus. Frankly, that would go to every one of the doctors on this panel on fox. We are grateful to each of you. The good news is that the chloroquine medication we actually deployed in the state of New York, resources to be able to be administered to people, but I'm pleased to report you, doctor, the FDA is approving off label use for the hydrochloroquine right now. 

Doctors can prescribe that medication, which as you know is a perfectly legal and approved malaria medication, but doctors can now prescribe chloroquine for that off label purpose of dealing with the symptoms of coronavirus. We’re making that clear across the country. As you know, and I'm sure the president will say this when he joins us in a bit, the president’s very optimistic. He's very hopeful that some of these anecdotal results that we’ve seen around the country will prove out to be true. 

I want to assure you, there is no barrier to access to chloroquine in this country. We are working to add to that supply, even as we speak. We’re working with companies like Bayer that produce vast amounts of chloroquine, but at the same time, to your point, we are engaging in a clinical trial while we make this broadly available for off label use, because we do want to take the opportunity - we’re doing that in New York state - to study the results of this so we can better understand the impact going forward. 

When pressed to answer whether the vice president would take the drug, Pence said, “I would follow the advice of my physician, and I would recommend that approach to every single American. 

Fox News host Harris Faulkner asked Oz where the drug is manufactured and whether the United States has a stockpile of the drug.


FAULKNER: A couple things for the vice president and Dr. Oz. Dr. Oz, I want to start with you. The hydroxychloroquine, I'm curious. Do we know where that's manufactured? Because China is slow to get back online. So many of our pharmaceuticals are made there. You just heard the vice president saying they’re gonna have more of it. Do we have a stockpile? What can you tell me? 

OZ: I know from the task force that there is some drug that’s available and that's coming on line relatively rapidly, but you need about 20 pills for a therapeutic dose to take it over the 7-10 day period, so I don't think we have enough for all Americans, but I do believe just for folks watching that it could make a meaningful difference in how contagious the virus is, and also how sick you get with it. 

We don't know that for sure because, cause as the vice president said, we haven't had the critical trials, but I’d love to hear what the vice president has heard from the task force on the topic of availability of enough supplies if we use it not just to treat COVID-19 patients, but also prophylaxis for people who are near those patients - for example spouses and also doctors and nurses on the front lines who sometimes can’t protect themselves in emergencies. 

PENCE: It's a great question. I spoke to Dr. Steve Hahn at the FDA just yesterday about the availability of chloroquine in the American marketplace, and he said that there is a significant amount of chloroquine available for prescription by doctors. The important thing was we had the FDA approved off label use. It's a malaria medication. 

Doctors can prescribe it but now doctors can prescribe it for dealing with the symptoms of coronavirus, but to Dr. Oz's point, we've also been working with manufacturers overseas. I have personally spoken, as the president has, to the CEO of Bayer that produces chloroquine. They've been working with us to bring back literally millions of doses from overseas, manufacturing facilities. 

That's happening as we speak. We will focus those on areas where we have outbreak, where we have people that are struggling with coronavirus now, but to Dr. Oz's point, we are also going to work to continue to spin up manufacturing so that on an increasing basis it's available for every American whose doctor might think it would be helpful. 

FOX NEWS HOST BILL HEMMER: Some of it is being tested in New York City?

PENCE: That's where we are doing the clinical test. It began this morning. We distributed thousands of doses across New York, and It is a-- the priority the president has placed on our response has been to those communities - Washington state, California, New York, that have seen significant outbreak, but whether it be testing, whether it be supplies, we’re gonna work to continue to make testing supplies and medicines more broadly available for every American. 


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