WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate’s top Democrat is calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs to explain why it allowed the use of an unproven drug on veterans for the coronavirus.
Sen. Charles Schumer says veterans may have been put at unnecessary risk.
In an interview with The Associated Press, he says the VA should provide Congress more information about a recent bulk order for $208,000 worth of a malaria drug that President Donald Trump has heavily promoted, without scientific evidence, as a treatment for COVID-19.
Schumer’s comments come after the filing of a whistleblower complaint that alleged the Trump administration wanted to “flood” coronavirus hot spots with the drug, as a possible quick fix to the ongoing spread.
Schumer says VA Secretary Robert Wilkie should address whether anyone at the department was pressured by the White House to use hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19.
In a statement, the VA called it “preposterous” for anyone to suggest it would make treatment decisions based on anything other than patients' "best medical interests.” He went on to say that the VA only permits the use of the drug after ensuring veterans and their loved ones are aware of the potential risks.
Former VA Secretary David Shulkin is calling for the department to immediately stop the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19, tweeting “With studies showing no benefit, VA should restrict use exclusively to clinical trials.” Trump fired Shulkin in 2018 and replaced him with Wilkie.