President Trump says he's taking hydroxychloroquine to prevent COVID-19

Jane C. Timm
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Trump says he's taking hydroxychloroquine to prevent coronavirus — is it safe?

President Donald Trump said Monday that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine, an unproven treatment for COVID-19 that he has vigorously promoted.

“A lot of good things have come out about the hydroxy. A lot of good things have come out. You’d be surprised at how many people are taking it, especially the front-line workers — before you catch it,” Trump said at the White House on Monday. “I happen to be taking it, I happen to be taking it… I’m taking it hydroxychloroquine, right now.”

Trump said he does not believe he was exposed to the virus but decided to take the drug after consulting with the White House physician. He also claimed that essential workers, including doctors and nurses, were taking the drug to prevent contracting the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The FDA has warned against the drug's use for COVID-19 outside of a hospital setting due to a risk of serious heart problems. Hydroxchloroquine is an antimalarial drug that's often used to treat lupus and rheumatoid disease. There are currently no approved treatments for COVID-19.

Pressed on why he was using an unproven therapeutic, Trump said, "Because I think it's good, I've heard a lot of good stories."

"I'm not going to get hurt by it. It's been around for 40 years," he added.

The president dismissed questions about studies that that found the drug wasn't an effective treatment for COVID-19, touting a “well-crafted” letter he said he received from a doctor in Westchester, New York, who claimed to have treated patients with hydroxychloroquine, zinc and the antibiotic azithromycin, known commonly as a Z-Pack.

Trump said he was taking zinc as well, and seemed to suggest that he had previously taken the antibiotic, as well. After some early studies suggested the drug could help treat patients sickened by the coronavirus, the president promoted it publicly as a “game changer.” But subsequent studies found little evidence that hydroxychloroquine was a helpful treatment for those with COVID-19 and, instead, was increasingly linked to fatalities.

“I’ve taken it for a week and a half now, and I’m still here,” Trump said Monday.

Pressed again for evidence of its efficacy for COVID-19, the president said: "Here's my evidence, I get a lot of positive calls about it."

He repeatedly said that front-line workers were taking the medicine, something medical authorities have acknowledged is indeed happening while warning against the practice.

The American Medical Association, the American Pharmacists Association and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists released a joint statement in April acknowledging "that some physicians and others are prophylactically prescribing medications currently identified as potential treatments for COVID-19."

"We strongly oppose these actions," the statement said. "We caution hospitals, health systems, and individual practitioners that no medication has been FDA-approved for use in COVID-19 patients."