[guest post by Dana]
In spite of warnings by Dr. Fauci, and in spite of *FDA safety warnings issued in April, President Trump announced today that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative medicine against the coronavirus. Apparently, the potential side effects on a 73-year old, overweight man with high blood pressure, and lack of actual evidence that it is effective as a preventative medicine did not matter in the end:
President Trump said Monday that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug whose effectiveness against the coronavirus is unproven, for about a week and a half as a preventive measure, saying he had no symptoms of Covid-19.
“All I can tell you is, so far I seem to be OK,” he said, explaining that he takes a daily pill.
The president also said that, along with the daily dose of hydroxychloroquine, he has been taking a a daily dose of zinc and an initial dose of the antibiotic azithromycin. Studies have linked the combination of these drugs to an increase of cardiac arrests.
Dr. David Boulware of the University of Minnesota, who is overseeing a national trial to determine whether hydroxychloroquine can prevent infections, cautioned:
There are no data that pre-exposure prophylaxis is effective to prevent coronavirus. It may be. It may not be. We do not know. The only way I would recommend taking hydroxychloroquine is within a clinical trial.
Other doctors also cautioned against taking it:
“I think it’s a very bad idea to be taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive medication,” said Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and the director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, Calif. “There are no data to support that, there’s no evidence, and in fact there is no compelling evidence to support its use at all at this point.”
Dr. David Maron, a cardiologist and the chief of the Stanford Prevention Research Center, said in an interview that in his opinion “the risk-benefit ratio doesn’t make sense.”
Dr. Steven E. Nissen, the chief academic officer of the The Miller Family Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, said hydroxychloroquine was “not an innocent therapy,” adding that he had treated a number of patients who developed a life-threatening arrhythmia, which the drug can cause.
“This disorder can be lethal,” Dr. Nissen said. “My concern would be that the public not hear comments about the use of hydroxychloroquine and believe that taking this drug to prevent Covid-19 infection is without hazards. In fact, there are serious hazards.”
Clearly, all medical practitioners are not on the same page with regard to using hydroxychloroquine as a preventative medication for the coronavirus:
Asked if the White House doctor recommended he begin taking hydroxychloroquine, Trump demurred.
“I asked him what do you think, he said, ‘Well if you’d like it,’ ” the President told reporters.
The President’s physician, Navy Cmdr. Sean Conley, alluded in a memo released Monday night to Trump’s personal valet testing positive two weeks ago for coronavirus. While Conley didn’t say directly that Trump started taking hydroxychloroquine in response to the valet testing positive, the timing mentioned by Trump and the positive test match up.
“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 relative risks,” Conley wrote, adding that Trump has taken multiple tests for coronavirus — all negative — and remains symptom free.
“I’m not going to get hurt by it,” Mr. Trump said, claiming he was making the revelation in order to be transparent with Americans. “It has been around for 40 years for malaria, for lupus, for other things. I take it. Front-line workers take it. A lot of doctors take it. I take it.”
And although the released memo reveals that the doctor did discuss the use of hydroxychloroquine by the president, it did not confirm that he was indeed taking it. However, there is this tweet from the NYT:
POTUS spoxwoman @Alyssafarah confirms yes POTUS was prescribed and yes POTUS has been taking hydorxychloroquine.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) May 19, 2020
The president’s decision to take the drug comes as no surprise, given his zealous promotion of it back in early April. He takes a drug that doctors warn against taking as a preventative medicine. He refuses to wear a mask in public, as recommended by medical experts. But I do wonder about the level of pressure Trump put on Conley to prescribe him the drug. Given the lack of evidence supporting its effectiveness as a preventative medication against the coronavirus, as well as the potential side effects on an older person who is not in the best physical shape, and in this case, just happens to be the President of the United States, I would have guessed that the White House physician would have not simply said no to any such request, but would have emphatically said Absolutely Not!.
Anyway, here are some brief clips of Trump explaining why he decided to take the drug:
"I want the people of this nation to feel good. I don't want them being sick" — Trump claims the White House doctor signed off on him taking hydroxychloroquine, which he says he was inspired to start taking because of letters he received pic.twitter.com/R0oKn9XMpP
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 18, 2020
As The Post notes, today was a “triple whammy” of good news, so why would Trump want to detract from that by making a controversial announcement? I don’t really know why, but I do know that know one steps on his own good press more effectively than Trump himself.
*The FDA did authorize emergency use of hydroxychloroquine against the coronavirus in March, even though there was little evidence that it could work.