New Jersey's 26th Legislative District

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Pennacchio: NJ Must Make HCQ Available for Preventive Treatment of COVID-19

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FDA Authorization Does Not Go Far Enough

Now that the FDA has given emergency authorization for the use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to fight the coronavirus crisis, Senator Joe Pennacchio said the medication may be most useful as a preventive treatment slow the spread of the disease.

A modest regimen of as few as 10 HCQ pills could protect a huge segment of our population from the coronavirus, Senator Pennacchio said. (WikiMedia Commons)

“This is good news from the FDA, but we are three weeks behind,” said Pennacchio (R-26). “Now we’ve got to get it out there as a prophylactic to protect people at high risk and the health care and first-responders we all depend on.

“We know it works. That discussion is over with. Now it’s time to use HCQ to help keep people healthy, break the back of the pandemic, and release people from isolation,” Pennacchio added.

Hydroxychloroquine was introduced more than 70 years ago as an anti-malarial drug. It is currently prescribed to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and doctors around the globe have been advocating for its use as an effective weapon to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The State is behind the curve on this and we’re going to have to catch up,” Pennacchio said. “I have been talking about this for weeks and wrote to the Health Commissioner on March 17, but while the virus was getting a getting a foothold, New Jersey hid behind the FDA’s skirt, waiting for them to take action. Drawing from our many in-state pharmaceutical companies, we should have secured a stock pile of pills, like other states and a handful of countries have done, and formulated a plan to prioritize distribution of HCQ.”

Pennacchio noted a report this week in the Wall Street Journal, “An Update on the Coronavirus Treatment,”  cited clinical information from doctors in Wuhan,  China, who observed that patients with lupus, generally treated with hydroxychloroquine, did not seem to develop COVID-19.

“This could be the key we have been looking for to stop this virus in its tracks,” Pennacchio said. “Our priority now must be getting the available doses to those who can benefit the most. This drug should not only be given to sick patients in the hospital, the goal is to prevent people from getting so sick they require hospitalization.

“A huge segment of our population can be protected with a modest regimen of as few as 10 pills costing less than $10,” Pennacchio said. “The treatment will not only treat symptoms, but by reducing the viral load in patients will prevent its shedding and spread.”

Pennacchio recommends that any list of prioritized recipients should include, but not limited to:

  • Those currently being treated with HCQ for diseases such as Lupus and RA
  • Doctors, health care workers, and their adult family members
  • First Responders and their adult family members
  • Super Markets workers who help keep our food and supplies available to the public, including those who stock shelves and make deliveries, along with their adult families.
  • Those that been exposed to the virus and their adult family members
  • People at high risk from coronavirus, including those over age 65, residents in nursing homes or other facilities, patients with chronic lung disease or asthma, those with serious heart conditions, people with suppressed immune systems, and individuals with underlying medical conditions.

“If we prioritize treatment, we can get ahead of this pandemic,” noted Pennacchio. “Hospitals will be able to keep pace with a more manageable sick population, and we can begin to return to normalcy. Using HCQ, let’s break the back of this pandemic and release us from our isolation.”

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