U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Calls for HHS Inspector General Investigation into Trump Administration’s Promotion of Hydroxychloroquine as a Treatment for COVID-19

Hydroxychloroquine has not been approved as a treatment for Coronavirus 

Baldwin also raises questions about shipments of hydroxychloroquine to Milwaukee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin has called on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to investigate the Trump Administration’s promotion of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, despite the fact that it has not been approved as a treatment. Senator Baldwin also raised a number of questions about shipments by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of over 335,800 tabs of hydroxychloroquine to Milwaukee.

On March 19, 2020, President Trump began advertising and promoting hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19 to the American public.  In a tweet from March 21, the President described the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, a common antibiotic, as “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine,”  and on March 23, he noted in a White House press briefing that the federal government was working to obtain large quantities of the drug at his direction.  On April 4, the President expressed his support for usage of the drug, adding that individuals had “nothing to lose,” and on April 11, he suggested that he might take it himself.  

In the letter to HHS Principal Deputy Inspector General Christi Grimm, Senator Baldwin writes, “Time and again, this administration has demonstrated a lack of competence in managing our response to this pandemic. I am extremely concerned that the promotion of hydroxychloroquine exemplifies another effort to prioritize the misguided whims of the White House over science and public health. While the President has touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, the evidence remains inconclusive.”

A recent study from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) found that patients with severe cases of COVID-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine alone showed a significantly higher risk of all-cause mortality over either supportive care or a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin.

Senator Baldwin also called for the HHS OIG investigation to include a review of two rounds of hydroxychloroquine shipments to Milwaukee by FEMA from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) on April 6 and April 8.

Senator Baldwin writes, “The agency has failed to provide any clarity regarding distribution or final delivery locations in Milwaukee, or justification for its prioritization of a shipment of an unproven therapeutic over other requested supplies, including swabs for use in COVID-19 testing and ventilators.”

In mid-April, a spokesperson for FEMA confirmed that the agency had distributed almost 20 million tablets of hydroxychloroquine to cities around the country, including over 335,800 tabs of hydroxychloroquine to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  

In addition, Senator Baldwin writes, “I strongly support efforts to develop a treatment for COVID-19 that is safe, effective, and approved by the FDA, however, I am incredibly concerned that the actions of the administration have distracted us from this effort and jeopardized the health of thousands of Americans in the process.”

The full letter to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General is available here.