Democratic Senators from the Special Committee on Aging are requesting a probe into the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 nursing home patients.
The request comes after a Pennsylvania veterans nursing home was found to have given hydroxychloroquine to residents in April. More than 40 residents have died following the move.
Other state inspection reports revealed that Texas nursing home residents also were given the drug without authorization or consent from them or their family members, the Senators wrote in letters sent to leaders of the Food and Drug Administration; Department of Health and Human Services; and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
On March 28, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine as an off-label treatment for COVID-19 in certain hospitalized patients. The drug was originally approved to treat malaria and autoimmune diseases. On June 15, the FDA revoked the authorization, citing weak evidence supporting its effectiveness, as well as heart risks that outweigh any apparent benefits.
“Although the FDA and the scientific community have now concluded that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment for COVID-19, and that it can have serious side effects for some individuals, the Trump Administration continues to issue misleading statements regarding the efficacy and safety of this drug as a treatment for COVID-19,” Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote.
“This mixed messaging from the Trump Administration coupled with an absence of clear guidance, has led to the drug’s continued use, even after the FDA issued warnings about its safety,” they added.
The senators noted “numerous reports” of nursing homes using the drug to treat residents with known COVID-19. In Pennsylvania, for example, inspectors said a nursing home treated 205 residents with the drug with no approval from state officials and after the FDA had issued warnings against its use in non-hospital settings, the lawmakers reported.
In another case, an operator reportedly used hydroxychloroquine as part of a preventive drug cocktail without consent, according to family and residents.
The senators asked the agencies to open an investigation into “the extent to which the experimental treatment has been used to treat nursing home residents without proper approval and without their consent.” They are also requesting information from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and Health and Human Services on how they’ve monitored the hydroxychloroquine’s use in these settings during the pandemic.
The senators set a Sept. 10 deadline for the agencies to respond to their questions.