Virus drug hunt slowed by "desperation science" (Marilynn Marchione)

News Journal: Desperate to find cures for Covid-19, researchers are taking short-cuts while impeding real progress. Tens of thousands of doctors and patients rushed to use drugs before proven safe or effective; slew of low-quality studies clouded the picture even more

Dr. Derek Angus, critical care chief at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. People weren’t prepared to go slow during a pandemic. “We made traditional clinical research look so slow and cumbersome.”

Nearly six months on, UK researchers managed to enroll 1/6 of hospitalized Covid-19 patients into a large study that found that a cheap steroid (dexamethasone) helps while a malaria drug doesn’t. The study “changed practice overnight” without waiting for publication or review.

In the US, a smaller but rigorous study found that remdesivir can shorten recovery time for seriously ill patients, “but many questions remain about its best use.”

“Doctors are still frantically reaching for anything else that might fight the many ways the virus can do harm, experimenting with medicines for stroke, heartburn, blood clots, gout, depression, inflammation, AIDS, hepatitis, cancer, arthritis, and even stem cells and radiation.”

Dr. Steven Nissen, Cleveland Clinic researcher and frequent adviser to FDA. “Desperation is not a strategy.” Few definitive studies in US, some of which have been undermined by freelancing or lax methods of drug company sponsors.

Then you’ve got politics, as with hydroxychloroquine, which President Trump “relentlessly promoted” while Dr. Anthony Fauci was counseling a “prove things first” approach. “For three months, weak studies polarized views of [HCQ] until several more reliable ones found it ineffective for treatment.”

Dr. Otis Brawley, Johns Hopkins, laments prevalence of “gunslinger medicine.” RX is to “appreciate and respect science.”

Letter to the editor,
7/28/20.
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