Craig M. Wax didn’t know Joe Pennacchio until last Friday.
But now Wax, an osteopathic family physician from Gloucester County, is one of many doctors giving the Republican senator from Morris County support in his quest to expand the use of the drug, hydroxychloroquine, to treat and to possibly prevent COVID-19.
Wax doesn’t discount the politics swirling around the issue.
In short, Donald Trump and many on the right support wider use of the drug, which now is used to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. That cohort certainly covers Pennacchio, the co-chair of Trump’s New Jersey reelection campaign.
Most others, including some of the president’s health experts, are more cautious, contending that the drug – also known as HCQ – has not been fully tested.
From a pure medical perspective, Wax says the patient-physician relationship must be “sacrosanct,” and if patients want the drug, they should be able to get it.
And like others who support wider use of the drug, Wax points to successful trials in France, Spain and more recently, upstate New York, where he says up to 700 patients with the coronavirus have been given the drug with positive results.
Wax said he reached out to the senator last week upon reading of his support for the drug and that Pennacchio called him back.
So far, Wax has had less luck with other state politicians. He said he’s tried to call the governor’s office, but can’t get through to even leave a message.
If he is ever able to talk to Phil Murphy, Wax says he will ask him to reverse the state’s position that only allows the drug to be used on patients who have tested positive. Wax says there are problems with that, including the fact it can take time to get test results and that some tests have an error rate of 30 percent.
He asserts that the administration’s policy is, in effect, “denying the practice of medicine.”
Wax also has reached out to Senate President Steve Sweeney with a tad better luck; he says he was able to leave a message with a staffer.
For what it’s worth, Wax is a constituent of Sweeney.