U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he departs the White House for travel to Michigan during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Washington, U.S. May 21, 2020.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
President Donald Trump said he had “just finished” taking a two-week course of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, the medication he has vigorously promoted as a preventative or curative treatment for the coronavirus, even as evidence piles up that the drug may cause more harm than good.
The president again defended his decision to take, and talk about, the unproven treatment in the interview, amid Food and Drug Administration warnings against using the drug for COVID-19 outside of hospital settings because of a risk of serious heart problems.
Hydroxychloroquine is an antimalarial drug that is often used to treat lupus and rheumatoid disease. There are no approved treatments for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“Well, I’ve heard tremendous reports about it. Frankly, I’ve heard tremendous reports. Many people think it saved their lives. Doctors come out with reports. You had a study in France, you had a study in Italy that were incredible studies,” Trump said, failing to acknowledge the studies that tied the drug to a greater risk of death or those that found no benefit at all.
Trump suggested that he’d taken it because two White House workers had tested positive for the virus.
“I believe in it enough that I took a program because I had two people in the White House that tested positive,” he said. “I figured maybe it’s a good thing to take a program.”
There have been several studies into the effect of hydroxychloroquine on patients sick with COVID-19 that have found the drug to be ineffective or harmful to patients fighting the coronavirus.
A study out of China found that patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 who were given hydroxychloroquine and standard care for COVID-19 fared worse than those given standard care, while French researchers in another study found that treatment with hydroxychloroquine didn’t stop the progression of the disease. A study in New York that was funded by the National Institutes of Health found no adverse or beneficial effects of the administration of hydroxychloroquine on coronavirus patients. Another study in Brazil was stopped early after patients developed fatal, irregular heartbeats.
The World Health Organization announced on Monday that it was suspending a trial of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID-19 due to potential risks.
The president told reporters last week that he was taking the unproven treatment after consulting with the White House physician. He also claimed without evidence that thousands of essential workers, including doctors and nurses, were taking the drug to prevent contracting the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Pressed then on why he was using an unproven therapeutic, Trump said: “Because I think it’s good. I’ve heard a lot of good stories.”