Remember hydroxychloroquine, a medication that President Trump, early in the COVID-19 pandemic, thought might be a “game changer” in treating COVID? There were no controlled studies of the medication in COVID infections, but it was used by some physicians in the United States and in Europe at that time with success in treating COVID. The lack of controlled studies of a medication in treating an illness is not the ideal, but it has not always limited the use of medications in the past for serious illnesses, e.g. erythromycin against Legionnaires’ pneumonia. Hydroxychloroquine had been safely used extensively in the past for other conditions and potential side effects are well known, allowing proper selection of patients. However, since President Trump suggested hydroxychloroquine, its use became so politicized by the anti-Trumpers that the medication was discredited to the point that it was not thoroughly studied. Valuable time was lost and, as it turns out, people probably died because of political bias.
A couple studies were completed recently and demonstrated some effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in the early stage of a COVID infection when symptoms were minimal. One recent study which was reported in the American Journal of Medicine (January 2021) showed that treatment with hydroxychloroquine significantly reduced the need for hospitalization if started early in the illness. Hydroxychloroquine is safe and inexpensive and could be considered in treatment of early cases of COVID, especially in patients who are at higher risk and have no contraindications.
Also note that the American Medical Association in a memo in October 2020 reversed an earlier statement made in March 2020 and stated that physicians could prescribe hydroxychloroquine based on their discretion. Then, about a month later, they rescinded this recommendation. This suggests that political bias may still be involved when considering the treatment of COVID.