Protesters Hold Mock Body Bags Outside White House in Call For Approval of ALS Drugs

Protesters laid body bags across the street from the White House on Wednesday, calling for the Food & Drug Administration to approve therapeutic drugs for the degenerative disease ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease).

While the FDA has been quick to approve testing procedures for coronavirus and place potential therapeutics into clinical trials, advocates say the same is not true of medications for ALS. Currently, only four drugs have been approved for ALS treatment by the FDA. One therapeutic has been undergoing clinical trials for nearly ten years.

"The FDA, believe it or not, currently treats ALS the exact same way it would treat a non-terminal disease like erectile dysfunction [or] arthritis," ALS patient and advocate Mike Henson told Florida station WPEC.

ALS is degenerative, affecting the brain and the central nervous system. The brain stops communicating with muscles causing them to atrophy. There is no cure for ALS and it is a terminal disease.

In a tweet, user @LuchaEla asked the FDA to "do for #ALS what you did for #COVID. #ALS is 100 percent fatal! Help ALS patients access promising treatments NOW! We do not have time to wait!"

One of the most promising treatments for ALS is NurOwn, which uses stem cells in order to help regrow nervous tissue. NurOwn has undergone three clinical trials in the U.S. and Israel. In February, makers of NurOwn met with the FDA to discuss approval of the drug for ALS treatment.

Newsweek reached out to the FDA for comment. This story will be updated with any response.

protesters, white house
Demonstrators displayed fake body bags in protest of the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic near the White House on Wednesday. Drew Angerer/Getty

Wednesday also saw the observation of a nationwide National Day of Mourning in remembrance of coronavirus victims, highlighted by a mock funeral procession through the nation's capital. In a separate demonstration, protesters held up signs that said "Trump Lies, People Die" in response to the White House's coronavirus response.

"Activists across the country are holding a mass #NationalFuneral to hold the Trump administration and Republican elected officials accountable for their failure to protect people from COVID-19," read a Wednesday tweet from co-organizers CPD Action.

Participants held signs that read "Trump Lies, People Die." Outside the White House, protestors laid down body bags to symbolize individuals who had been killed by the virus. Demonstrations were also expected to take place in at least 20 other U.S. cities.

Newsweek reached out to CPD Action for comment. This story will be updated with any response.

Recent data indicated 1,591,991 positive cases of coronavirus in the U.S. with 94,994 deaths attributable to the virus as of May 20. However, 370,076 individuals were classified as totally recovered.

President Donald Trump said during a Tuesday cabinet meeting that the number of positive coronavirus cases in the U.S., the highest in the world, was a "badge of honor."

"I look at that in a certain respect as being a good thing," Trump said, "because it means our testing is much better."

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of coronavirus across the United States.

Spread of COVID-19 across the U.S.
Spread of COVID-19 across the U.S. STATISTA

Correction: This story and headline has been updated to clarify that the protesters were calling for the approval of drugs used to treat ALS.