- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2020

Former Food and Drug Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Thursday said global regulators need to be just as aggressive in chasing a COVID-19 treatment as they’ve been with a vaccine, saying it will buy time while the world waits up to two years for a preventive shot.

“We really need to do the same thing with therapeutics as well, and we’re not doing that right now,” Dr. Gottlieb told CNBC. “We need to partner with the companies that have the most promising therapies and try to drive through development and really have a sense of urgency around this.”

The National Institutes of Health launched a clinical trial of a vaccine candidate from Moderna, Inc., in Seattle, and Johnson & Johnson says its trial shot may be ready for emergency use by early 2021.

Yet the coronavirus is swirling through the U.S. now. It has killed over 5,000 and normal life has come to a standstill in most places.

Even if the virus dissipates in the summer, it is likely to ping between the northern and southern hemispheres, meaning a drug is needed by the fall.

“This virus is going to continue to bounce around the world and it’s going to change our lives until we have a therapeutic that can vanquish it, or really take the fear away from this virus spreading in the background. A drug can do that,” Dr. Gottlieb told CNBC.

President Trump has been pushing the combination of a malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, and certain antibiotics, pointing to studies abroad that showed some promise.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, green-lighted a clinical trial of the malaria drug in his state.

Dr. Gottlieb said those results “look interesting” but scientists should adopt a broader view.

“These are early studies. I wouldn’t place all my bets with hydroxychloroquine — there’s a rich pipeline, there’s a lot of drugs that show activity right now,” Dr. Gottlieb said. “Hydroxychloroquine may work but I will say that it’s being used pretty widely in Italy and the U.S. and if it was having a very robust treatment effect, we probably would have seen it. So if it’s positive and it’s having an effect, it’s not an effect that’s very apparent.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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