United States President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his taking anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a ‘line of defence’ against coronavirus.
“I think it’s worth it as a line of defence and I’ll stay on it for a little while longer. I’m just very curious myself, but it seems to be very safe,” Trump told reporters at the White House, a day after he disclosed that he has been taking the drug to ward off the deadly infection.
The US president said the drug has gotten a bad reputation only because ‘he was promoting it’.
“So, I am obviously a very bad promoter. If anybody else were promoting it, they would say this is the greatest thing ever,” he said
“It is a very powerful drug I guess but it doesn’t harm you and so I thought as a frontline defence, possibly it would be good, and I have had no impact from it,” Trump said, adding that the anti-malaria drug has received tremendous reviews from doctors all over the world.
There have been some great studies about it in countries like Italy, France and Spain and doctors in the US have been very positive about it, he claimed.
“Many doctors came out and said it’s great,” he said.
“I have a doctor in the White House. I said what do you think? And it’s just a line of defence,” he said, adding that the drug was inexpensive.
Trump alleged that a recent study on Veteran Affairs patients was inaccurate and the drug was given to those who were on the verge of dying.
“There was a false study done where they gave it to very sick people, extremely sick people, people that were ready to die. It was given by obviously not friends of the administration and the study came out, the people were ready to die. Everybody was old, had bad problems with hearts, diabetes and everything else you can imagine,” he said.
“So, they gave it. So, immediately when it came out, they gave a lot of false information,” Trump said.
Separately in an interview, Vice-President Mike Pence said he is not taking hydroxychloroquine.
“I’m not. But I would never begrudge any American taking the advice of their physician,” he said.
“Hydroxychloroquine is a drug that’s been around for more than 40 years for treatment of malaria. But, early in this process, the FDA approved what’s called off-label use where physicians could prescribe hydroxychloroquine in terms they deemed appropriate. So, my physician has not recommended that, but I wouldn’t hesitate to take the counsel of my doctor. Any American should do likewise,” Pence said.
However, opposition leaders slammed Trump for taking the unproven drug.
“It’s reckless to tell people he’s using hydroxychloroquine. All of the experts say at best it doesn’t help. So what about senior citizens who don’t go to the doctor, who take hydroxychloroquine? Listening to the president. And at worst, it hurts you. So I don’t know why he did it,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told MSNBC in an interview.
“Maybe he has family or friends who own part of the company. It’s not unlike the president. Someone at Mar-A-Lago, calls him on the phone tells him oh, this is a good company and he just talks about it. Maybe he did it to divert attention from all the bad things happening, and maybe he’s just lying,” he alleged.
Trump has called hydroxychloroquine a “game-changer” drug in the fight against the coronavirus.
After Trump’s repeated touting of hydroxychloroquine as a “game changer” cure for the virus, the FDA issued an advisory warning that the drug has not been “shown to be safe and effective for treating or preventing COVID-19.”
The Trump Administration has bought millions of doses of hydroxychloroquine and stockpiled it.
India has sent several millions of doses to the US as part of its humanitarian gesture.
India is one of the major manufactures of the drug, which was first synthesised in 1946 and is in a class of medications historically used to treat and prevent malaria.
It is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, childhood arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases.
The drug is not FDA-approved for the treatment of COVID-19 but it has been identified as a possible treatment for the infection and the US government has requested its immediate availability.