WASHINGTON—Virtually minutes after President Donald Trump announced that hes taking a prophylactic regimen of hydroxychloroquine and zinc to ward off COVID-19, a media backlash erupted.
Fox News Neil Cavuto warned: “If you are in a risky population here, and you are taking this as a preventative treatment … it will kill you. I cannot stress enough. This will kill you.”
Trump said on May 18 that he has been taking the combination for about a week and a half after consulting his doctor; the regimen requires a prescription.
“I think its good. Ive heard a lot of good stories. Im not going to get hurt by it. Its been around for 40 years,” the president said, adding that “youd be surprised at how many people are taking it.”
In March, as the death toll mounted, Trump touted the drugs as a possible COVID-19 treatment as a “game-changer.” He has since been a proponent of the treatment protocol, often saying, “what have you got to lose?”
White House physician Sean Conley released a letter later on May 18 saying the president “is in very good health and has remained symptom-free.”
“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,” Conley said.
Trump said he hasnt experienced any side effects, which can include abnormal heart rhythms, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The president is regularly tested for COVID-19, and so far, all have come back negative.
Hydroxychloroquine and the closely related chloroquine have been used for decades to treat malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
On May 19, many other news headlines warned that the president is taking an “unproven” treatment and that hes taking it “despite safety concerns.” Other headlines suggest there is “no data” to support the prophylactic use of hydroxychloroquine. “Trumps stunning claim that hes taking hydroxychloroquine could trigger a cascade of negative effects,” one says.
On his “Morning Joe” program on MSNBC, host Joe Scarborough accused Trump of lying about taking the drugs.
Scarborough said he once ate a meal with Trump, who used many hand wipes to “sanitize his hands before eating anything.”
“So, hes not taking something that his own administration has said will kill you,” he said.
In March, the FDA authorized the off-label use of such anti-malarial drugs for patients hospitalized with COVID-19, and said patients and their doctors should make such decisions. In April, the agency then warned against the widespread use of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine outside of hospitals or clinical trials.
However, many doctors have indicated that a three-drug regimen of hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin (also known as Z-Pak), and zinc has proven largely successful in treating high-risk patients.
Trump suggested his decision to take the drugs was informed partly by a doctor in upstate New York who sent Trump a letter on April 7 outlining the results for the patients he had treated with Z-Pak. At the time, Dr. Vladimir Zelenko had treated 383 patients, all of whom recovered without complications or side effects. The cost of the drugs per patient, he said, was about $20.
Zelenko urged a prophylactic regimen for high-risk individuals such as those in nursing homes, as well as for front-line health workers and police officers.
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