President Trump said Monday that he has been taking the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine for the last “couple of weeks” as a preventive against the coronavirus.
“I’m taking it, hydroxychloroquine, right now, yeah,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “Couple of weeks ago, I started taking it. Because I think it’s good, I hear a lot of good stories. And if it’s not good, I’ll tell you right. I’m not going to get hurt by it.”
According to the White House, Trump is tested every day for the coronavirus and at last report had not been infected.
Hydroxychloroquine, taken together with the antibiotic azithromycin, appeared to show promising results in a limited, non-peer-reviewed study conducted in France on patients hospitalized with COVID-19. But subsequent trials showed that the drug offered no benefits to patients, and posed potentially serious health risks.
No studies have been published on taking hydroxychloroquine to prevent infection.
Hours after Trump announced he was taking the drug, his physician, Sean P. Conley, released a statement in which he said that he and the president had spoken about taking the drug.
“After numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks,” Conley said in the statement without specifying what evidence of a “potential benefit” he had relied upon to reach that conclusion.
Trump also said he is not receiving azithromycin, but is taking supplements of zinc, believed by some to boost the immune system.
“I want the people of this nation to feel good,” Trump said of his decision to use hydroxychloroquine despite having tested negative for COVID-19. He added, “I’ve taken it for about a week and a half now, and I’m still here.”
Asked what evidence there is that the drug can help prevent a person from being infected with the coronavirus, Trump responded: “Here’s my evidence: I get a lot of positive calls about it.”
In an interview with CNN Monday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she had concerns about Trump taking the drug to try to prevent infection from the virus.
“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 in his, shall we say, weight group — morbidly obese, they say,” Pelosi said.
The president, who spent weeks in March touting hydroxychloroquine as a potential “game changer” in the fight to treat COVID-19, also summed up the medical advice Conley had given him when Trump suggested taking the drug prophylactically.
“‘Well, if you like,’” Trump said his doctor responded.
Thanks to Trump’s promotion of the drug, it has been embraced by his supporters. He mostly stopped talking about it after a study by the Veterans Administration showed it increased the risk of death in a group of patients who were given it. But he seemed keenly aware of the implications of his mentioning it Monday.
“I was just waiting for your eyes to light up when I said this, when I announced this,” Trump said.
The president assured reporters that “a lot of frontline workers” are “taking it as a preventative.”
“All I can tell you is so far I seem to be OK.”
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