The Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning of potential harmful side effects to the drug, but Trump has promoted it as a potential effective treatment for the virus.
“I happen to be taking it. … Right now,” Trump said to surprised reporters at the White House on Monday. “Yeah. Couple weeks ago I started taking it. Cause I think it is good. I have heard a lot of good stories. And if it is not good, I will tell you, alright, I am not going to get hurt by it.”
Trump said that hospital workers and doctors have been taking the drug, “I think people should be allowed to.”
Trump said to reporters, “I’ve been taking it for a week and a half now, and I’m still here.” He said that he takes a pill every day along with a zinc supplement.
Asked what led him to take the drug, he said, “Here’s my evidence: I get a lot of positive calls about it,” Trump said.
“What do you have to lose?” Trump said, repeating a line he has used in previous advocacy of the drug. He said that he had asked the White House physician about taking it, even though has has so far tested negative for the virus.
But hydroxychloroquine is controversial and even risky as a coronavirus treatment, in that the FDA recently cautioned against its use outside of a hospital setting or in clinical trials because of the risk of heart rhythm problems. Other medical professionals, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, have said that the drug still needs to go through clinical trials to establish its effectiveness.
After Trump’s remarks, Fox News’ Neil Cavuto made a stern warning to viewers about the use of the drug.
He noted that a Veterans Administration study showed that “among the populations of veterans in the hospital receiving this treatment, those with vulnerable conditions, respiratory conditions, heart ailments, they died.”
He then warned viewers about taking it.
“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 worst case scenario, you are dealing with the virus, in a vulnerable population, it will kill you. I cannot stress enough. This will kill you.”
“I only make this, not to make a political point here, but a very life and death point. Be very very careful.”
On CNN, Dr. Sanjay Gupta said that Trump “shouldn’t be taking it. His own FDA has said this is something still under investigation.” He said that there is “no evidence to suggest” that it works as a preventative measures.
“This is one of those things that I think is going to cause a lot of confusion in people,’ Gupta said.
Hydroxychloroquine has been used as an anti-malarial drug and to treat lupus. But during his press briefings, Trump and some of his top supporters have advocated it as a treatment for the coronavirus. But that promotion has tapered off in recent weeks, after the Veterans Administration study and other information came to light that threw more doubt on it as a miracle cure.
Dr. Rick Bright, a former Health and Human Services official tasked with vaccine development, claims that he was removed from his post last month because he expressed doubts about the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus. He filed a whistleblower complaint and appeared on 60 Minutes on Sunday.
On Monday evening, the president’s physician, Sean P. Conley, released a statement in which he wrote that “after numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for an against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from the treatment outweighed the relative risks.”
He noted that a member of Trump’s staff — reported as a valet — tested positive for the virus two weeks ago. Trump received regular testing, and has been negative to date, Conley wrote.