- ‘The president said himself he’s taking it. That’s a given fact’
- FDA has approved drug for malaria but not against Covid-19
Tom McCarthy in New York – The Guardian
Donald Trump on Tuesday further touted his apparent taking of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as protection against coronavirus despite federal regulators warning of the potentially serious, even fatal, dangers.
As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US continued to rise and the death toll crept inexorably towards a landmark 100,000, the highest in the world, Trump spent public appearances repeatedly talking about a dubious treatment and an economic comeback.
The president claimed a recent United States study indicating hydroxychloroquine was not an effective coronavirus treatment was a “Trump enemy statement”.
“If you look at the one survey, the only bad survey, they were giving it to people that were in very bad shape,” Trump said. “They were very old. Almost dead. It was a Trump enemy statement.”
There have only been limited studies on the drug in relation to Covid-19 so far.
A spokeswoman for the president confirmed he is taking the malaria drug as a defense against Covid-19.
At the White House, the press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, told CBS News Trump was taking hydroxychloroquine.
“I can absolutely confirm that,” she said.
“The president said himself he’s taking it. That’s a given fact. He said it. The president should be taken at his word.”
Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday that for “a couple weeks” he had been taking hydroxychloroquine, which he first touted as a Covid-19 treatment in March, before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that the drug could cause irregular heartbeats and other cardiac trouble.
The FDA has approved the drug for the treatment of malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
“You’d be surprised at how many people are taking it … The frontline workers, many, many are taking it,” Trump said on Monday.
On Tuesday, McEnany told Fox News: “Any use of hydroxychloroquine has to be in consultation with your doctor. You have to have a prescription. That’s the way it must be done.”
The White House on Monday issued a statement by Sean P Conley, Trump’s doctor, which concluded: “After numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relevant risks.”
Trump then falsely claimed that evidence suggests hydroxychloroquine does not have negative side effects. “What has been determined is it doesn’t harm you,” Trump said.
In reality, the Food and Drug Administration has said hydroxychloroquine should only be used as a coronavirus treatment in hopsital settings, due to “reports of serious heart rhythm problems” in virus patients who had received the drug.
When a reporter mentioned the FDA guidance, Trump said, “That’s not what I was told.”
But Pelosi has expressed alarm.
“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 his, shall we say, weight group,” the House speaker, 80, told CNN of Trump, 73, on Monday evening.
“Morbidly obese, they say. So, I think it’s not a good idea.”
Trump is obese, as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines the term, but he does not appear to qualify as “extremely obese”, the top category. The ambiguity stems from unreliable data, as Trump tends to exaggerate his height and lowball his weight.
“While clinical trials are ongoing to determine the safety and effectiveness of these drugs for Covid-19, there are known side-effects of these medications that should be considered,” the FDA commissioner, Stephen Hahn, said in a statement then.
The FDA has not updated that guidance. Experts warned that Trump’s claim to be taking the drug could lead to a spike in demand, potentially making it harder for vulnerable patients who need the drug to fill prescriptions.
After Trump hyped the drug in March, an Arizona man died from ingesting a form of chloroquine used to clean fish tanks.
“We saw Trump on TV – every channel – and all of his buddies said that this was safe,” the man’s wife, who also ingested the drug, told NBC. “Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure.”
On Monday night a Fox News host, Neil Cavuto, expressed his concern, telling viewers: “I only make this not to make a political point here, but a life-and-death point. Be very, very careful.”
Fox News opinion hosts Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity swung behind the president but Trump was angered nonetheless, retweeting one Twitter user who called Cavuto an “asshole”. He also bemoaned the network’s output since the departure of Roger Ailes, who resigned as chairman and CEO in disgrace, after being credibly accused of sexual harassment. Ailes died in 2017.
Last month, Trump, who has refused to wear a mask as a basic prophylactic measure against the virus’s spread, riffed from the White House podium that “powerful light” and “disinfectant” could be potential Covid-19 treatments, prompting warnings from manufacturers of some cleaning products.
Those comments coincided with a spike in calls to poison control centers and prompted US disinfectant manufacturers to issue warnings that their products should not be ingested.