The White House on Tuesday mocked the reactions in the media and elsewhere after President Trump announced he is taking the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a measure against contracting COVID-19.
Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany called the reactions “apoplectic.”
“We have a lot of information about the safety of this drug, though ultimately you make that decision with your doctor,” she said on “Fox and Friends.” “So some of the misreporting on other networks — these apoplectic [analyses] of hydroxychloroquine — ignore the fact that tens of millions of people around the world have used this drug for other purposes.”
The drug is taken by those infected with malaria but also by tourists traveling to malaria hot spots, such as Africa, as a preventative measure. McEnany said members of her communication team at the White House have also taken it in the past.
The press secretary said on Fox that she spoke Tuesday morning with Dr. Stephen Hahn, the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who informed her that the malaria drug has been approved for several other uses.
“The president has said pretty widely that this is a drug that he had looked at with optimism,” she said. “But nevertheless he said that this is a decision that must be made with a doctor, as he’s repeatedly said.”
Last month, hydroxychloroquine was deemed the most highly rated treatment for the novel coronavirus in an international poll of more than 6,000 doctors.
The survey conducted by Sermo, a global health care polling company, asked 6,227 physicians in 30 countries to find out what works against SARS-CoV-2. The poll found that 37% of those treating patients suffering from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 patients rated hydroxychloroquine as the “most effective therapy.”
The physicians picked hydroxychloroquine from a list of 15 choices. Some studies, however, have found that the drug is not effective, and some doctors have warned that taking it could have negative consequences.
In early April, the FDA gave chloroquine and its derivative, hydroxychloroquine, emergency-use authorization, although many physicians were already using the drug.
Trump on Monday said he began taking hydroxychloroquine a “few weeks” ago. About that time, news emerged that his personal valet had tested positive for the coronavirus.
“I think it’s good, I’ve heard a lot of good stories. And if it’s not good, I’ll tell you, right? I’m not going to get hurt by it. It’s been around for 40 years for malaria, for lupus, for other things,” Trump said.
Fox News host Neil Cavuto was one of those in the media who went “apoplectic.”
“All right, that was stunning. The President of the United States just acknowledged that he is taking hydroxochloquine, ah, a drug really meant to treat malaria and lupus,” Cavuto said on the air.
“The fact of the matter is, though, when the president said, ‘What have you got to lose?’ in a number of studies, those certain vulnerable, the population, have one thing to lose: their lives,” he said.
But Trump’s physician, Navy Commander Dr. Sean P. Conley, released a statement explaining why he prescribed the drug to Trump.
As has been previously reported, two weeks ago one of the President’s support staff tested positive for COVID-19. The President is in very good health and has remained symptom-free. He receives regular COVID-19 testing, all negative to date.
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.
In consultation with our inter-agency partners and subject matter experts 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.
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