by: John Engel

Posted: / Updated:

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine has once again been brought to the forefront of discussions surrounding treatment for COVID-19, after President Trump on Monday admitted to using the drug as a preventative measure— despite a lack of evidence proving the efficacy of the drug in preventing or treating the virus.

KXAN reached out to the Texas Medical Association and Texas Medical Board about its coronavirus treatment recommendations to doctors and heard from one of the Austin-based doctors who says she plans to continue treating COVID-19 patients using the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine in combination with other supplements.

While the Food and Drug Administration has approved an emergency use authorization for the drug to be made available, it has not approved it for prevention or treatment of COVID-19 outside of a hospital or clinical trial.

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Dr. Ann Shippy, who has practiced functional medicine for the past 15 years, says she has treated 10 patients and herself for COVID-19 using the drug without any negative impacts. She said she checks in with them daily and has seen improvement in the days following use of hydroxychloroquine.

“I’m keeping my patients from getting sick enough to have to go into the hospital,” Shippy said. “The more that we can be doing to keep people from getting to the point that they have to be hospitalized, and it’s a very inexpensive treatment with what I think is very low risk.”

Shippy says she wouldn’t feel comfortable prescribing hydroxychloroquine if her patients weren’t having positive responses.

The Texas Medical Association, of which Shippy is a member physician, does not recommend the use of hydroxychloroquine in preventing or treating COVID-19.

KXAN asked Shippy for her response to that guidance, and she said, “I don’t really have a response to that. I think it’s easier for me to feel comfortable with it because I’ve seen it work.”

According to data firm Premier, orders for hydroxychloroquine jumped 260% in the first two weeks of March, compared to earlier in the year. The drug is commonly used to treat malaria and autoimmune diseases.

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Dr. John Carlo, an epidemiologist and member of the TMA COVID-19 Task Force, said he worries about potentially serious side effects associated with hydroxychloroquine.

“We all want something to work,” Carlo said. “There is a massive effort going on to look for medications that do have potential benefits. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is going to be one.”

Several ongoing studies are researching the efficacy of using hydroxychloroquine in preventing COVID-19 infection with frontline health care workers. So far, no studies have provided definitive evidence that hydroxychloroquine reduces a patient’s chance of being infected with COVID-19 or reduces the severity of the virus.

MORE: Malaria drug shows no benefit in another coronavirus study

A joint statement released in April by the American Medical Association, American Pharmacists Association, and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists cautioned the use of non-FDA approved medications in treating COVID-19.

“Definitive evidence for the role of these drugs in treating COVID-19 patients has not been determined through robust clinical trials; decisions to use these medications off-label must be made with extreme caution and careful monitoring,” the statement reads.

The Texas Medical Board does not issue guidance regarding specific drugs or treatments for COVID-19, according to an agency spokesperson. TMB would only review a case following a patient complaint.

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