President Donald Trump said he’s taking antimalarial medication hydroxychloroquine and zinc because he believes the drugs could prevent COVID-19.
“Here’s my evidence. I get a lot of positive calls about it,” he said today in a White House roundtable with restaurant executives. Trump said he’s been taking the drugs every day for a week and a half and that he has not had any COVID-19 symptoms. People close to the president, including one of Trump’s valets and Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary, recently tested positive for the virus.
There is still no evidence that taking hydroxychloroquine can prevent someone from contracting or getting sick from the coronavirus. It’s a possibility — a number of research groups are running clinical trials to see if the drug could protect health care workers who are regularly exposed to the virus from getting sick — but no data from those studies is available yet.
Trump said he’s following the lead of frontline workers. “You look at doctors and nurses, a lot of them are taking it as a preventative,” he said. While there are clinical trials looking specifically at using the drug as a preventive for health care workers, it is still not clear how many health care workers are taking the drug. Side effects of hydroxychloroquine include damage to part of the eye, life-threatening heart effects, and muscular weakness.
Trump spent weeks promoting hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19. His administration reportedly pushed the Food and Drug Administration and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to authorize the use of the drug for COVID-19 outside of the hospital, based on meager evidence. While early data showed that hydroxychloroquine may help some patients, additional studies found that it wasn’t effective and could have dangerous side effects, especially in people with severe symptoms. Trump stopped touting the drug after that data was publicized. In April, the FDA warned against the use of the drug for COVID-19 outside the hospital or a clinical trial.
While Trump says that he is taking hydroxychloroquine and zinc, that can’t be independently verified. All the public has is his word, and neither he nor his White House has been reliable sources of information during this pandemic. Among other things, Trump has spent the pandemic publicly recommending treatment strategies for COVID-19 based on limited evidence. In late April, he appeared to suggest that Lysol injections could cure the disease. No therapies have been proven to effectively treat or prevent COVID-19.
At time of publication, more than 90,000 people in the United States have died of the disease.