The disclosure comes less than a month after the president ruminated on the idea of mainlining disinfectants and “bringing light into the body” to treat the disease.
WASHINGTON (CN) — Though it is unproven as a preventative measure against Covid-19 and authorities have warned against using it outside of a clinical setting for fear of heart arrhythmia or even death, President Donald Trump said Monday he has been taking the antimalaria drug hydroxychloroquine for weeks.
The president only last month suggested “bringing light into the body” and injecting disinfectant as possible treatments for Covid-19, but quickly backtracked and claimed his remarks were sarcastic.
But late Monday, the president appeared serious as he told reporters he had been taking the unproven treatment for the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus for at least “a couple of weeks.”
“I would have told you three or four days ago but you never asked,” Trump said to reporters gathered in the dining room of the White House, where the president held a meeting with restaurant executives.
Trump claimed he was taking hydroxychloroquine as well as a zinc supplement to prevent against infection, though there is no evidence to suggest the medicine works this way. What has been confirmed is that the drug poses risks to those who take it in an uncontrolled setting, according to the Food and Drug Administration and most public health experts, including those from Johns Hopkins University.
A small French study on hydroxychloroquine that emerged as the pandemic first set in earlier this year netted some positive results, showing a slight lower rate of hospitalization and death among patients who took it. But that difference was not seen as statistically significant and the study prompted Anthony Fauci, the senior most scientist on the White House coronavirus task force, to say it would be hard to make any “definitive statements” on the drug’s efficacy or safety.
The president said Monday he asked the White House doctor whether he should take the drug.
“He said, ‘Well, if you’d like it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’d like it. I’d like to take it,’” Trump said.
Despite warnings from the FDA about its potentially fatal side effects, White House Dr. Sean Conley confirmed in a statement the president was taking the drug.
“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.
The White House did not return a request for comment.
Trump said Monday he was encouraged to take hydroxychloroquine because he’s “heard a lot of good stories” about it. When a reporter asked what evidence existed to support his claim that it was effective preventatively, the president remarked that it was only “people who aren’t big Trump fans” who say it doesn’t work.
“If it’s not good, I’m not going to get hurt by it,” Trump said.
He also said he hopes that he can stop taking the once daily regimen soon but thinks others should be allowed to take it if they wish.
Dr. Rick Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, testified before Congress last week that he was under significant pressure by Health and Human Services officials, including Secretary Alex Azar, to approve hydroxychloroquine for widespread use in patients infected with Covid-19.
Bright said he was removed from his role, at least in part, because he refused to immediately greenlight the antimalarial drug without a more thorough review and without stricter safety standards for distributors of the drug based in Pakistan and India.