- The Washington Times - Monday, May 18, 2020

President Trump revealed Monday he has been taking a malaria drug that he once spotlighted as a promising treatment for the coronavirus despite the lack of clinical proof.

Mr. Trump said hydroxychloroquine has been around for decades and he’s “heard a lot of good stories” from COVID-19 patients.

“I happen to be taking it,” Mr. Trump said, catching White House reporters off-guard. “Right now, yeah.”

He said he started taking the drug, with zinc, a “couple weeks ago,” but then later said he had been taking it for a week and a half.

“A lot of good things have come out about the hydroxy,” Mr. Trump said. “You’d be surprised at how many people are taking it, especially the front-line workers, before you catch it.”

Mr. Trump and the staff around him are tested regularly for COVID-19 to protect him, and the president hasn’t exhibited any symptoms of the disease.

Even so, Mr. Trump said he asked the White House physician if it would be OK to take the malaria drug and the doctor said yes.

“There is a very good chance this has an impact, especially early on,” Mr. Trump said, claiming many doctors take it as a preventative medicine.

The president’s doctor, Sean P. Conley, released a memo late Monday saying he discussed the treatment with Mr. Trump two weeks ago, after one of the president’s aides — a Navy valet — tested positive for COVID-19.

“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,” Dr. Conley wrote. “In consultation with our inter-agency partners and subject matter expert around the country, I continue to monitor the myriad studies investigating potential COVID-19 therapies, and I anticipate employing the same shared medical decision making based on the evidence at hand in the future.”

Mr. Trump said he hasn’t asked Vice President Mike Pence or others at the White House if they’re taking the drug, too, though he “wouldn’t be surprised” if they were.

The president did not cite any proof of its clinical efficacy except that he has received glowing calls about the drug.

Mr. Trump made the revelation as he criticized a government whistleblower, Rick Bright, who says he was transferred from the helm of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to a job at the National Institutes of Health after he clashed with administration leaders over the use of hydroxychloroquine as a potential therapy for COVID-19.

Mr. Trump pushed hydroxychloroquine for weeks as a potential treatment for the coronavirus, citing limited studies and positive anecdotes from people who had taken it and recovered. He invited a state lawmaker from Michigan, Karen Whitsett, to the White House to discuss her belief the drug saved her life.

Mr. Trump said people have little to lose in the face of the deadly virus.

However, there are concerns about hydroxychloroquine’s potential side effects on heart rhythms.

The Food and Drug Administration cautioned people not to use hydroxychloroquine outside of a hospital or clinical trial, and the Department of Veterans Affairs found coronavirus patients who took the drug fared worse than those who didn’t.

Mr. Trump complained that people who maybe “weren’t big Trump fans” gave it at the VA and then extolled his efforts to reform the agency.

The president had toned down his promotion of hydroxychloroquine after a separate drug — remdesivir — seemed to help people with severe cases of COVID-19 recover faster.

Federal regulators approved remdesivir, from Gilead Sciences, which is given intravenously for emergency use, setting off a scramble to allot it to hospitals.

Suddenly, hydroxychloroquine is back in the news, with Mr. Trump saying he couldn’t wait to see reporters’ eyes light up when he told them about his decision to take it.

Mr. Trump said he hopes he doesn’t have to take the drug for too much longer. He hopes that a vaccine or miracle cure will come along.

But for now, he said, “I take a pill every day.”

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