By Bradford Betz-Fox News
President Trump stoked a flurry of reaction Monday after revealing to reporters that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine, a controversial malaria drug, to stave off the novel coronavirus, with many experts urging Americans to consult with doctors before taking such a step.
Trump said he has been taking hydroxychloroquine and a zinc supplement daily “for about a week and a half now.”
Trump has spent weeks pushing the drug as a potential cure for COVID-19, despite there being no consensus on its effectiveness or safety. Dr. Sean Conley, the president’s physician, announced in a statement Monday night, “After numerous discussions he and I had about regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks.”
Still, many doctors urged Americans that their best sources for medical information are medical experts, not the president.
“You have to have a discussion with your doctor to decide if it is best for you,” Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, a Fox News medical contributor, warned. “It is not going to be good for everyone but it may be beneficial and potentially life-saving for others.”
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases specialist at the Vanderbilt Medical Center, went a step further. “I certainly would not recommend that people in the U.S. ask their physicians to prescribe hydroxychloroquine for the prevention of Covid,” Schaffner told The Wall Street Journal. “Its use is entirely speculative.”
Former Planned Parenthood President Dr. Leana Wen said there was “NO evidence for hydrochloroquine being effective in treatment of #covid19 or prophylaxis to prevent the disease.”
She continued, “This medication has serious side effects. I am very concerned about @realDonaldTrump continuing to model behavior that could harm many Americans.”
Dr. Rob Davidson, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare, advised his followers to ignore the president.
“There is no evidence of benefit and there is evidence of harm,” Davidson tweeted. “Trump is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands. Let’s not add to that number.”
Trump said his doctor did not recommend the drug to him, but he requested it from the White House physician.
“I started taking it, because I think it’s good,” Trump said. “I’ve heard a lot of good stories.”
Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., tweeted that repeated studies have shown hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work for COVID-19 patients.
Others cast doubt on whether Trump was telling the truth.
“If Trump has really been taking hydroxychloroquine for the past ‘week-and-a-half’ as he just blurted [out] at a press conference, do we really think he would have been able to keep his mouth shut about it?” tweeted Glenn Kirschner, a legal analyst for NBC and MSNBC.
Following the president’s comments, Fox News’ Neil Cavuto told his viewers, “If you are in a risky population here, and you are taking this as a preventative treatment to ward off the virus, or in a worse-case scenario you are dealing with the virus and you are in this vulnerable population, it will kill you. I cannot stress this enough. This will kill you.”
The malaria drug hydroxychloroquine can cause heart rhythm problems and other side effects. The Food and Drug Administration has said hydroxychloroquine should only be used for coronavirus in formal studies.
Two large observational studies, each involving around 1,400 patients in New York, recently found no benefit from the drug. Two new studies published Thursday in the medical journal BMJ reached the same conclusion.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Bradford Betz is an editor for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @bradford_betz.