As many as 10 drugs are currently under clinical trial in the US as part of the administration's "unprecedented" effort to find a therapeutic solution to the fast-spreading coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump has said.
In the absence of either a vaccine or a drug, the novel coronavirus has claimed more than 88,500 lives and has infected nearly 1.5 million people globally. The United States alone accounts for 4.3 lakh infections and 14,700 fatalities.
"As American industry steps up to help, so are America's doctors and scientists. Ten drugs are now in clinical trials and my administration is taking unprecedented actions to make new therapies and treatments available without delay," Trump told reporters during his daily coronavirus news conference on Wednesday.
"The doctors, the lab technicians, the companies are coming up with things that I hope in the very near future are going to be very, very special, very important," he said.
Responding to questions, Vice President Mike Pence said the US was having four separate clinical trials on the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. Hydroxychloroquine has been identified by the US Food and Drug Administration as a possible treatment for the Covid-19.
"I believe we will have roughly four separate clinical trials underway studying hydroxychloroquine," Pence said with a note of caution.
"But it is important to remember that, as the president has made the point many times, the FDA has approved what is called off-label use and so in consulting with your physician, if your physician determines it is appropriate to write a prescription for hydroxychloroquine we are working today to make that available across the country," he said.
India, the largest producer of hydroxychloroquine, agreed to lift the ban on the export of the medicine to the US after Trump spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on phone last week.
"It is broadly available today as an anti-malarial medication but we are working around the country and internationally to increase that supply but we are studying it in at least four different clinical trials," the Vice President said.
The Henry Ford Hospital is conducting a clinical trial for hydroxychloroquine. The hospital has had a rather overwhelming response to the initial trial, which is beginning this week with 3000 people taking the hydroxychloroquine or a placebo, Pence said.
Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases from the National Institute of Health, said a number of different clinical trials were going on.
Some of which are randomised controlled trials which is the optimal way to determine ultimately if something is safe and effective and works. But there are a lot of different ways that that is being looked at, he added.
"It is being looked at against the placebo, it is being part of a multi-arm trial comparing it with others. There is a trial that was recently started actually in prophylactics among healthcare workers so there are several of these," Fauci said.
"In addition to that, there is what was just mentioned now that any physician in consultation with their patient and back and forth can make the decision to use the drug on an off-label. So we have two things that are simultaneously going on. We are having actual formal clinical trials and the off-label use," he said.