Some Florida hospitals still using controversial drug hyped by Trump to treat coronavirus
Coronavirus Richard Whelan, surgeon Lenox Hill Hospital New York (Northwell Health:AFP : Handout)

An antimalarial drug hyped by President Donald Trump remains widely used in south Florida, despite evidence of fatal side effects.

Several hospital systems in the region are still using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients, a week after Food and Drug Administration issued a warning that the drug could cause serious and potentially life-threatening cardiac problems, reported the Sun-Sentinel.

“We want to go cautiously with it and try to make sure we don’t cause harm,” said Dave Lacknauth, director of pharmacy services for Broward Health. “But at the same time, no one really has a good solution for COVID.”

The hospitals are following FDA guidance on the drug, which is permitted as a coronavirus treatment for patients who can be screened and closely monitored.

“We understand that health care professionals are looking for every possible treatment option for their patients and we want to ensure we’re providing them with the appropriate information needed for them to make the best medical decisions,” said FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn. “While clinical trials are ongoing to determine the safety and effectiveness of these drugs for COVID-19, there are known side effects of these medications that should be considered."

Broward Health doctors have administered the drug to more than 50 patients, and it's used in combination with several other treatments for patients who have been screened for heart issues.

“It’s one of the seven or eight things we’re doing to manage the total COVID patient,” Lacknauth said. “Could it be helping? It could. Could it be providing some decrease in viral replication? It could, and that’s why we have it in there, because of the possibility that it might be adding to our total package of care.”

So far, Lacknauth said, none of the health system's patients have suffered side effects noted in the studies questioning hydroxychloroquine's use, and he added that it's not clear whether that drug helped patients or some other treatment used alongside it.

"When you see our patients get better, it's hard to say which one of those work," he said. "They're all a little bit contributory."