President Donald Trump in a press conference on Thursday said the Food and Drug Administration is fast-tracking efforts to approve an antiviral therapy, best known for treating malaria, for use in coronavirus cases.
The drug, hydroxychloroquine, was developed more than a half-century ago and is approved for treating malaria, arthritis, and other ailments. Reports out of China and Italy suggest the drug may help, but there is no hard data yet.
"We're going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately," Trump said.
The FDA is working to conduct a "large, pragmatic clinical trial" quickly to confirm the drug's benefit to coronavirus patients, said Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn.
He also tempered the president's optimism about the still-untested solution.
"What's also important is not to provide false hope," he said. "We may have the right drug, but it might not be in the appropriate dosage form right now, and it might do more harm than good."
New antiviral therapies face a shorter and less arduous approval process than vaccines, several of which are under development with 12 to 18-month timelines.
"The therapies are something we could move on much faster potentially," Trump said.
He claimed the administration "slashed red tape" to develop new vaccines and therapies.
The president also held out on confirming whether he would invoke the Defense Production Act, which he signed on Wednesday, to mandate the production of needed medical supplies such as N95 respirators and surgical masks.
"If we find that we need something, then we will do that," he said.
Trump repeated that he was open to the federal government buying equity stakes in the airline, cruise, hospitality, and other industries hurt by the outbreak.
The press conference opened with more controversial language placing the blame squarely on China for the outbreak, despite concerns voiced about potentially exacerbating a backlash against Asian Americans.
"We continue our relentless effort to defeat the Chinese virus," Trump said.