President Trump has revealed that he is taking the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to protect himself from COVID-19. In a meeting with restaurant executives on Monday, the president said he has been taking the controversial drug for weeks on the advice of his doctor. The revelation comes after numerous occasions where Trump endorsed the drug as a means of treating the virus. While the president has been vocal in his support, some experts have warned that treating COVID-19 with the medicine could be ineffective or even harmful.
An Unexpected Revelation
“A couple of weeks ago I started taking it,” Trump said of the malaria drug, “because I think it’s good, I’ve heard a lot of good stories.” He went on the describe a letter sent to him by a doctor claiming great success in giving the drug to patients. “He didn’t want anything. He just said, ‘Sir, I have hundreds of patients […] and out of the hundreds of patients — many hundreds, over 300 patients — I haven’t lost one.’ He said, ‘Please keep pressing that, sir.'”
Trump said that he had approached the White House doctor, Sean Conley, about taking the malaria drug.
“I asked him, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘Well, if you’d like it,'” Trump recalled.
Later that day, Conley released a memo describing his talks with the president.
“After numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxycholorquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks,” the memo read.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany also confirmed on Tuesday that Trump was using the drug. “The president said himself he’s taking it,” she told reporters at the White House. “That’s a given fact. He said it. The president should be taken at his word.”
Trump Boosts Malaria Drug
The president has been a vocal supporter of the drug as a measure against COVID-19 for weeks. As far back as March, the president urged for wider use of the drug, despite warnings of medical experts, including National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci. At a press conference on March 20, the two publicly disagreed on the drug after Fauci stated, when asked if the drug is an effective prevention against the virus, “The answer is no.”
Trump quickly contradicted Fauci’s statement, telling reporters, “I think we disagree a little bit. I feel good about it. That’s all it is, you know, smart guy. I feel good about it.”
The revelation has drawn mixed reactions from the medical and political communities. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who previously warned of a risk of “serious heart rhythm problems” associated with the drug, stopped short of completely condemning Trump’s personal use of it.
“The decision to take any drug is ultimately a decision between a patient and their doctor,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn told CNBC. “Hydroxychloroquine and cholorquine are already FDA-approved for treating malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.”
Others have been less charitable towards the president’s decision. Fox News host Neil Cavuto worried that the move would urge others to try the potentially harmful treatment.
“The president has insisted that [hydroxychloroquine] has enormous benefits for patients either trying to prevent or [who] already have COVID-19,” Cavuto said on his TV show, Your World. “The fact of the matter is, though, when the president said, ‘What have you got to lose?’ In a number of studies [of] those certainly vulnerable, the population have one thing to lose, their lives.”
Likewise, Dr. John D. Scott, the chair of the department of pharmacology at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle, told Parentology, “There are over 40 side effects associated with hydroxychloroquine dosage, [including] dry cough, hoarseness, fever, difficulty breathing and increased incidence of cardiac arrhythmia.”
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi expressed concern for the president’s medical risk factors while taking the malaria drug.
“As far as the president is concerned, he’s our president and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group, that is … morbidly obese, they say,” Pelosi said on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 on Monday. “So I think it’s not a good idea.”
The Guardian reports that, while the president qualifies as obese under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) definition of the term, he doesn’t appear to fit into the top category of “extremely obese.”