President Donald Trump announced Monday that he has been taking the drug hydroxychloroquine for the past “couple weeks” as a preventive measure against the coronavirus, and even said that front-line workers are doing the same, despite a warning from the FDA that the drug can cause serious heart problems.
Trump said he was taking the drug to prevent himself from becoming infected and said he has not been diagnosed with the coronavirus and currently has no symptoms following a pair of infections among White House staff in the past week.
“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,” Trump said at the White House. “I happen to be taking it, I happen to be taking it… I’m taking it hydroxychloroquine, right now.”
Before now Trump has emphatically promoted the controversial drug as a “game-changer” in the fight against coronavirus although the drug showed no benefit in a large analysis of its use in U.S. veterans hospitals.
There were more deaths among those given hydroxychloroquine versus standard care, researchers reported.
“I take it. I would’ve told you that three to four days ago but we never had a chance because you never asked me the question,” Trump told reporters at a news conference Monday. “It’s been around for forty years,” the president said. “A lot of doctors take it. I take it.”
Steve Aveson, a news anchor for KRON4-TV in San Francisco, was the first to report Trump’s statement on Twitter Monday.
Last week Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary tested positive for coronavirus just two days after one of President Donald Trump’s personal valets was also diagnosed.
The infections led to some concerns about the possible spread of COVID-19 at the White House and whether the infection could be circulating among Trump’s inner circle.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recommended not taking any form of the drug outside of a clinical setting or a hospital. No study has shown that hydroxychloroquine is effective in the treatment of coronavirus, although it has been used for years as a treatment for lupus, arthritis and malaria.
According to some research, the drug can even cause sudden death if a person takes just one gram more than the recommended dosage.
In the weeks after the president first touted hydroxychloroquine, people who relied on it for autoimmune disorders suddenly found the drug either in short supply or not at all due to hoarding.
The FDA issued the warning for the drugs, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, after reports that patients taking them, especially in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin, had experienced heart issues.
In March, an Arizona man died and his wife was in critical care after both ingested chloroquine phosphate after hearing Trump tout a pharmaceutical version of the drug.
The couple, both in their 60s, had to be rushed to the hospital 30 minutes after taking “an additive commonly used at aquariums to clean fish tanks” and not the pharmaceutical version of the drug, according to CNN, citing Banner Health hospital in Phoenix.
NBC News reported the couple believed the substance would prevent them from becoming infected with the virus.
The network spoke to the wife, who said they learned of chloroquine’s connection to coronavirus during Trump’s news conference, which “was on a lot actually.”