Veterans' nursing home gave experimental COVID-19 treatment to residents without positive coronavirus tests, probe alleges

A New York City nursing home for veterans last year gave some of its residents an experimental COVID-19 treatment although they had not tested positive for the virus and their families were unaware of the treatments beforehand, an investigation by news website The City and two other journalism organizations revealed this week.

Hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug, was used widely in the U.S. last year as an experimental COVID-19 treatment. It was often given in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin. Public health experts warned against using hydroxychloroquine in nonhospitalized patients and in elderly and vulnerable patients, according to The City

Both of the drugs carry side effects including anemia, neuromuscular damage and fatal heart arrhythmia, and the risk of side effects increases with age and with comorbidities such as kidney or cardiovascular disease, The City reported. 

But between March and late April 2020, the New York State Veterans' Home at St. Albans administered hundreds of doses of the drug combination to at least 62 residents, though some hadn't tested positive for COVID-19, according to an investigation by The City, Columbia Journalism Investigations and Type Investigations. The investigation identified four cases in which residents were given the drug combination prophylactically. 

Most patients given the drugs were between ages 70 and 97, and many had comorbidities, including high blood pressure, kidney and heart disease. Ten families of the nursing home residents told The City they weren't informed of the drugs' potential side effects, and eight families said they weren't told their family member was receiving the drugs until after they were administered. 

The nursing home referred all questions from The City to the New York State Department of Health, which didn't make officials available for an interview. A spokesperson for the health department told The City it was "unable to comment due to pending legal and enforcement actions." 

On April 24 of last year, the FDA advised against the use of hydroxychloroquine outside of a hospital or clinical trial because of the risk of life-threatening or heart rhythm problems, according to The City. The federal agency revoked the emergency use authorization in June.

The St. Albans nursing home appeared to end its use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 by late April, The City reported. 

Read the full article here

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