US President Donald Trump shocked reporters by revealing that he has been taking the anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine as a preventative against the coronavirus, following the advice of the White House physician.
“I’ve been taking it for about a week and a half now and I’m still here,” he said on Monday, following a meeting with governors at the White House. “I was just waiting to see your eyes light up when I said this,” he told the reporter asking the question.
Asked what evidence he had that the drug was helpful, Trump said “I get a lot of positive calls about it,” before adding, “What do you have to lose?”
Trump had mentioned the drug in the early days of the pandemic, apparently citing the research of a famous if controversial French physician who used it to treat Covid-19 patients, and has hosted a Democrat state legislator who recovered from the virus with the help of HCQ.
The media and the medical establishment, however, rallied in condemnation of such treatment as unproven or even dangerous, saying it could lead to fatal heart problems in some people. They also cited preliminary studies suggesting it did little or nothing to help Covid-19 patients, admittedly treated at late stages of the disease.
Hydroxychloroquine has been used for decades to treat malaria and lupus. Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration warned against using the drug outside of clinical trials or hospitals, citing reports of “serious heart rhythm problems” in some patients.
As a portly 73-year-old, Trump checks off several risk categories for severe coronavirus outcomes, and there have been concerns about his health after several White House aides tested positive for the virus in recent weeks. Reporters have repeatedly pressured him to wear a face mask.