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New York State will start coronavirus drug trials Tuesday in an attempt to control the pandemic's impact on the state, said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
New York is the hardest-hit state in the U.S. As of Monday afternoon, the state had 20,875 confirmed cases of COVID-19. During a news conference on Sunday, Cuomo announced that the state has acquired 70,000 doses of hydroxychloroquine, 10,000 doses of zithromax and 750,000 doses of chloroquine. The trials will start Tuesday, he said.
"I want to thank the [Food and Drug Administration] for moving very expeditiously to get us this supply – the president ordered the FDA to move and the FDA moved,” Cuomo said. “The president is optimistic about these drugs and we are all optimistic that it could work. I have spoken with a number of health officials and there is a good basis to believe that they could work.
“Some health officials point to Africa, which has a very low infection rate,” he added. “There is a theory that because they are taking this antimalarial drug in Africa, it may actually be one of the reasons why the infection rate is low in Africa. We don’t know, but let’s find out and let’s find out quickly.”
The work by researchers at IHU-Méditerranée Infection in Marseille has garnered global attention, notably from President Trump.
The FDA is studying the effects of hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19, but it has made no recommendation on it yet.
Experts, however, have also urged caution around the combination of medications. On Saturday, infectious diseases physician Dr. Edsel Salvana warned patients not to take hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin unless prescribed by a doctor.
"Both drugs affect the QT interval of your heart and can lead to arrhythmias and sudden death, especially if you are taking other meds or have a heart condition," he wrote.
"There are instances in which doctors may use either or both in CONFIRMED COVID infection, but for compassionate use through a carefully monitored process," he explained in another tweet. "There is data it MIGHT work but it is very early. DO NOT take ANY drug unless an MD prescribes it and monitors you closely."
Across the globe, a number of drug trials are underway as doctors and scientists scramble to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
During his press conference on Sunday Cuomo also urged the FDA to start approving serological testing for coronavirus antibodies.
“What this does is it tests the blood to see if you have antibodies that were created to fight the coronavirus,” he said. “Remember, all the health officials say the coronavirus was here before we started to test – many more people have had the coronavirus than we think, most people have resolved the coronavirus who have had it."
People who have the antibody will most probably not get the virus again, Cuomo said. “That can help us get our medical staff back to work faster,” he said.
As of Monday afternoon, at least 367,038 coronavirus cases have been diagnosed worldwide, 41,167 of which are in the U.S. The disease has accounted for at least 16,097 deaths around the world, including 485 people in the U.S.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers