President Donald Trump on Monday made the surprising revelation that he is taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug that his own government experts say is not suitable for fighting the novel coronavirus.
Trump, noting that he has tested negative for the virus and shows no symptoms, said he’d been taking the drug as a preventative measure “for about a week and a half.” However, it is not clear whether he started this measure as a response to the recent developments of several White House members succumbing to the coronavirus.
“I take a pill every day,” he said, adding that he combines this with zinc.
Asked why, he said: “Because I think it’s good. I’ve heard a lot of good stories.”
Trump has shown interest for weeks in promoting the use of hydroxychloroquine, even if some doctors think it does not work for coronavirus patients and US government regulators warn it has “not been shown to be safe.”
President Trump remarks that he takes hydroxychloroquine
Trump’s latest remarks came out of the blue, immediately grabbing headlines on a day when US deaths from COVID-19 topped 90,000 people — almost a third of the total world toll.
“You’d be surprised at how many people are taking it, especially the front-line workers, before you catch it. The front-line workers — many, many are taking it. I happen to be taking it,” he let slip to reporters attending a White House meeting devoted to the struggling restaurant industry.
President Trump said, “I’m taking it, hydroxychloroquine, right now, yeah. A couple of weeks ago, I started taking it.”
BBC further adds that when asked what was his evidence of hydroxychloroquine’s positive benefits, Mr Trump said: “Here’s my evidence: I get a lot of positive calls about it.”
Hydroxychloroquine: what must be known
While touted by Trump as a “game changer” in the war against the coronavirus, most medical professionals (even those on the White House team) are less enthusiastic about its revolutionary capabilities.
Hydroxychloroquine was approved a long time ago as a treatment for malaria and its only link to coronavirus is a lab study which showed that hydroxychloroquine may prevent coronavirus from invading cells. It is, however, stressed that all drugs that perform in controlled lab tests may not perform in real life.
See more: What to know about Hydroxychloroquine
Trump’s brazen ignorance of coronavirus scare
Trump has often played down the dangers of coronavirus, including last week when he said it threatened only a small number of people. He also pointedly refuses to wear a mask, despite federal recommendations to do so and the fact that most of his staff have taken to covering their faces in public.
— news.com.au (@newscomauHQ) May 18, 2020
A personal valet to Trump has tested positive for the coronavirus, as has Katie Miller, Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary.
An action that may threaten millions
Trump said his use of the medicine was approved by the White House physician. However, he insisted that he, not the doctor, took the first step.
“I asked him, ‘what do you think?’ He said, ‘if you’d like it.’ I said ‘yeah, I’d like it.'”
Trump said he has received many “positive calls” from people, whom he did not identify, telling him about the drug. President Trump in defense of why he is taking hydroxychloroquine mentioned a letter he’d received from a New York doctor, also unidentified, who reported giving the medicine to hundreds of patients and “I haven’t lost one.”
By contrast, the government’s Food and Drug Administration warns against giving hydroxychloroquine for either prevention or treatment of the coronavirus, noting reported side effects including “serious heart rhythm problems in patients with COVID-19.” Only emergency use is authorized under temporary rules.
Earlier this month, a medical paper out of New York suggested that combining hydroxychloroquine with the dietary supplement zinc sulfate, which has antiviral properties, could create a more effective treatment against coronavirus.
But Matthew Heinz, an Arizona doctor who served under Barack Obama’s government, said medicines like hydroxychloroquine are not “benign” and open for unregulated use.
“I cannot stress enough how reckless it is to encourage anybody to take hydroxychloroquine or any other unproven remedy,” he said in a statement.
Trump signalled, as he has throughout the crisis, that there was nothing to lose by trying possible treatments.
“It seems to have an impact, and maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t but if it doesn’t, you’re not going to get sick or die,” Trump said. “I take a pill every day. At some point I’ll stop.”
The president said again on Monday that he showed “zero symptoms.”
“Every couple days they want to test me, you know, for obvious reasons. I mean I am the president, so they want to test me. I don’t want to be tested but they want to test me,” he said. “I’ve shown always negative.”
Trump’s actions have the potential to be followed my thousands, if not millions, of people across the United States and the world. Previously, a couple in the United States died after incorrectly self-medicating themselves with chloroquine upon the President’s order.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk