President Donald Trump said Monday that he is taking the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in an attempt to prevent against a novel coronavirus infection — despite the Food and Drug Administration warning against using the drug outside of a hospital or clinical setting.
“I happen to be taking it,” Trump told reporters Monday, later clarifying that he was combining zinc with the anti-malaria medication. Trump said he has been taking the medication for a couple of weeks.
“I’m taking the two, the zinc and the hydroxy,” the President said. “And all I can tell you is, so far I seem to be okay.”
Asked why he was taking the drug, Trump responded: “Here’s my evidence, I get a lot of positive calls about it.”
Trump has for months promoted hydroxychloroquine as a potential wonder drug for COVID-19 patients, despite a lack of evidence that it’s actually effective against the disease.
The drug has been used for years as an anti-malarial. It’s also prescribed to lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients. But large scale studies have not supported its efficacy against COVID-19.
Last month, the FDA warned against using the drug outside of clinical and hospital settings due to “reports of serious heart rhythm problems.”
Trump on Monday also disparaged as “very unscientific” a study of veterans hospital patients that failed to find hydroxychloroquine effective against the virus.
“I get a lot of tremendously positive news on the hydroxy,” Trump said, adding that he’s said in the past of the drug: “What do you have to lose?”
Even Fox News was stunned by the revelation. Host Neil Cavuto, speaking to the Rutgers University professor of medicine Dr. Bob Lahita after the President’s remarks, asked if there was a risk of death for Americans following Trump’s advice.
“That is correct,” Lahita said.
“Be very, very careful of what you put in your mouth and what you swallow, be it liquid or solid,” the doctor added. “Because everything has a trade-off, and these drugs can be very dangerous. And if they don’t have any effect, there is no reason to take them.”
The President made the revelation while attacking Dr. Rick Bright, a vaccine expert who directed a key government office until he was recently demoted. Bright has said his removal was retaliation for becoming a whistleblower about hydroxychloroquine. Trump pointed out that Bright signed the request for the FDA to issue an “emergency use authorization” (EUA) to allow the strategic national stockpile to accept donated doses of hydroxychloroquine.
“Who signed the application?” Trump said Monday. “He did the signing. He was a believer at one point, I assume, otherwise he shouldn’t have signed it, no matter who told him to.”
But that leaves out key context: The EUA Bright requested would only allow the donated drugs to be prescribed “to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible.”
And in his recent whistleblower complaint, Bright described the EUA as a “compromise position,” one he took in order to satisfy higher-ups’ demand that the drug be distributed even more widely.
Even after the EUA was issued, Bright alleged, “the Administration nevertheless continued to push for expanded, unsupervised access to chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, in blatant violation of the EUA issued by its own FDA and regardless of the risk to the American public.”
This post has been updated.