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Lansing — The president of the Michigan State Medical Society is the doctor who prescribed a state lawmaker hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug touted by President Donald Trump that the lawmaker is crediting with saving her life.

Dr. Mohammed Arsiwala is president of a society that advocates on behalf of more than 15,000 physicians in the state. But he's also the founder of Michigan Urgent Care, which has clinics throughout southeast Michigan.

In a Wednesday interview, Arsiwala said first-term Rep. Karen Whitsett, a Detroit Democrat he didn't know previously, came to a Michigan Urgent Care location in Wyandotte. She had symptoms of COVID-19 and an underlying condition, and he decided her treatment should include an antibiotic and hydroxychloroquine, he said.

"It’s a novel virus. It’s acting in a very strange way. And it’s causing a lot of damage honestly," Arsiwala said of COVID-19.

Out of 58 patients who have tested positive for the virus, Arsiwala said he's chosen to give the medication to 12, including Whitsett, who had a severe headache and breathing problems.

"It was a choice between going to the hospital and never coming out and getting my hands on that medication," Whitsett said in an interview this week, adding that "It literally saved my life."

The second state lawmaker to test positive for COVID-19, Whitsett said she was prescribed hydroxychloroquine last week.

Whitsett's story has gained national attention, including that of President Trump, who has touted hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for COVID-19, a virus that's killed more than 14,000 people in the United States, including 959 in Michigan

Trump congratulated Whitsett on Twitter and mentioned her story during Tuesday's White House briefing.

But some in the medical field have been more cautious about the drug amid ongoing clinical trials studying its effectiveness in treating COVID-19, including one at the Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System.

During a Wednesday appearance on MSNBC, Patrice Harris, president of the American Medical Association, said the association supports clinical trials but it's "also so very important to know the risk profile."

"It is my obligation, and my patients expect me, to talk about the full range of side effects and we just don't know," Harris said.

In a March 25 joint statement, the AMA, the American Pharmacists Association and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists cautioned hospitals, health systems and practitioners that no medication had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in COVID-19 patients.

Arsiwala also noted Wednesday that trials are ongoing nationally.

But he added, "It will be too late if we wait for this trial to come in."

Asked about Whitsett's position as a lawmaker, Arsiwala said her job didn't affect his decisions and he treats all patients "based on the clinical situation," noting that she had an underlying disease, Lyme disease.

Arsiwala and Whitsett appeared Tuesday on Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Tonight" show. 

cmauger@detroitnews.com

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