A Texas physician used his Republican political connections to secure the anti-malaria medicine hydroxychloroquine and has begun administering it to elderly COVID-19 positive patients at a nursing home. Some patients and their families are not aware that they are being given the unproven drug that has been heavily-endorsed by President Trump.
Robin Armstrong, a physician and medical director of The Resort at Texas City nursing home, decided to start what he’s calling an “observational study” following an outbreak of the coronavirus that hit the facility earlier this month. One patient has died and another 87 have tested positive, including 56 residents and 31 staff, according to NPR.
Armstrong, who formerly served as the vice-chairman of the Republican Party of Texas from 2006-2010, reached out to Republican Lieutenant Governor of Texas Dan Patrick, who in-turn made some calls. Two days later, according to NPR, “Armstrong had received more than enough medication to begin giving it to patients.”
“It’s actually going well. People are getting better,” Armstrong said of the 39 patients on the medication that has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat COVID-19.
The doctor also said that “for the most part,” he has made residents aware that they are receiving the tablets but added that physicians are “not required” to get explicit consent from the patient or family members and that some residents at the nursing home suffer from the middle stages of dementia.
Armstrong said he is tracking the patients’ health and will submit his findings in “some kind of report.”
“This is really disconcerting,” Katherine Seley-Radtke, a medicinal chemist at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County told NPR.
“The problem with this is that it’s not being conducted in a proper scientific manner,” Seley-Radtke said. “It’s not being carried out with controls. It’s not being carried out under strict testing protocols and using appropriate guidelines.”
“I just find it amazing that everybody, including the president, thinks that this is just no big deal to go ahead and take this,” Seley-Radtke added.
Seley-Radtke is right about the president and hydroxychloroquine and the faulty methodology in Armstrong’s “study.” Even with Dr. Anthony Fauci, and other medical experts consistently warning against the acceptance of anecdotal evidence of the drug’s effectiveness, Trump continues to, as NBC News wrote, “effectively serve as an infomercial pitchman” for the drug. And it’s dangerous. Plus, according to the FDA, all clinical trials must follow strict guidelines such as informed consent to protect human rights and prevent abuse. And studies on human subjects must also be approved by institutional review boards to ensure safety and ethics.
As for Armstrong and his nursing home, NPR also looked into the facility itself and the results were anything but reassuring. In July of 2019, the last time the facility was inspected, it was cited for 14 violations, including the building’s design not meeting safety standards as well as cleanliness issues in food areas and other parts of the building. Additionally, the report stated, “The facility did not properly care for residents needing special services” and then listed several health needs that one would expect a nursing home should be able to perform without issue.