Following up the other day on news pertaining to our Veterans and the novel coronavirus COVID-19, came upon these stories out of the Associated Press about the VA administering hydroxychloroquine to our virus-stricken veterans in government run VA hospitals. The article was written by Hope Yen, the Associated Press on May 1, 2020, and follows here.

“Washington – Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie on Wednesday defended the use of an unproven drug on veterans for the Coronavirus, insisting they were never used as “test subjects” but given the treatment only when medically appropriate.

In a letter and call with major veterans’ organizations, Wilkie said the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine was being administered in government-run VA hospitals to virus-stricken patients only in conjunction with a physician’s advice. But Wilkie declined to say how widely the drug was being used at VA for COVID-19 and whether the department had issued broad guidance to doctors and patients on the use of the drug.

The Food and Drug Administration has warned doctors against prescribing the drug for COVID-19 outside hospitals because of the risks of serious side effects and death. He stressed without elaborating that the VA, the nations largest health care system, was adhering to FDA guidance allowing for prescriptions of the drug for COVID-19 in hospitals. “Our number one priority is keeping veterans, their families, and our staff safe and healthy”, Wilkie said in a letter which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Asked about the letter, the VA issued a separate statement saying it “permits use of the drug after ensuring veterans and caretakers are aware of potential risks associated with it, as we do with any other drug or treatment.” “Major veterans organizations are calling on VA to explain under what circumstances VA doctors initiate discussion of hydroxychloroquine with veterans as a treatment option after an analysis of VA hospital data was published last week showing hundreds of veterans who took the drug saw no benefit for COVID-19.The analysis, done by independent researchers at two universities with VA approval, was not a rigorous experiment. Researchers analyzed medical records of 368 older male veterans hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus infection at VA medical centers who died or were discharged by April 11. The analysis was the largest look so far at hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19. About 28% of veterans who were given hydroxychloroquine plus usual care died, versus 11% of those getting routine care alone. “Why were veterans who were receiving treatment from a federal agency being treated with an unproven and speculative drug?” asked Jeremy Butler, chief executive officer of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “At what point did the VA know that the results were this dire and when did they act upon those results?” We are concerned that VA still has not addressed any of these questions or provided any information about the issue of hydroxychloroquine’s safety and the results they have seen from it,” Butler added. Terrence Hayes, a spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars, urged the VA to limit its use of the drug for COVID-19. “It still hasn’t been proven if the drugs help or not for COVID-19,” he said.”

The figures for Coronavirus infections as of the end of April 2020, show 8,526 veterans in the VA care had contracted the virus, and there were 494 Deaths, and that’s in addition to more than 2,000 employees testing positive for the virus according to an article by Leo Shane III of the Military Times.

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field in an Army, or in and office.” General Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1890 – 1969, Five-Star General of the Army, 34th President of the United States

Ronald Verini is a local veterans advocate who writes a weekly column for The Argus Observer. He can be contacted at (541) 889-1978, help@veteranadvocates.org or 180 W. Idaho Ave., Ontario, OR 97914. The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of The Argus Observer.

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