Trump presses FDA to fast-track potential coronavirus drugs

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SAYING:

"I've directed the FDA to eliminate outdated rules and bureaucracy."

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday called on U.S. health regulators to eliminate red tape in order to expedite potential therapies to help those diagnosed with the coronavirus.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SAYING:

"We have to remove every barrier. There were a lot of barriers that were unnecessary."

The president specifically mentioned two drugs that could be used to treat the illness caused by the coronavirus.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SAYING:

"I think it could be a game changer or maybe not."

One was the experimental antiviral drug Remdesivir, produced by Gilead Sciences, and the other was chloroquine, or hydroxychloroquine, which is used to treat malaria.

But when speaking about the treatments, President Trump and his advisers seemed to offer conflicting messages on how fast chloroquine would be available, and how effective it may be.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP SAYING:

"We're going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately and that's where the FDA has been so great. They've gone through the approval process. It's been approved."

Minutes later, Trump's FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said this.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) FDA COMMISSIONER STEPHEN HAHN SAYING:

"Many Americans have read studies and heard media reports about this drug, chloroquine, which is an antimalarial drug. It's already approved, as the president said, for the treatment of malaria, as well as an arthritis condition. That's a drug that the president has directed us to take a closer look at, as to whether an expanded use approach to that could be done to actually see if it actually benefits patients. And again, we want to do that in a setting of a clinical trial.

Dr. Hahn added that a vaccine for coronavirus is likely about 12 months away.