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Donald Trump taking hydroxychloroquine daily despite having no Covid-19 symptoms

Agencies/Washington, United States
Filed on May 19, 2020 | Last updated on May 19, 2020 at 01.54 am
U.S President Donald Trump, surprise, announcement, taking, hydroxychloroquine, preventive, measure, coronavirus, Covid-19
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with restaurant executives and industry leaders during a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic meeting in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 18, 2020.

(Reuters)

US President says he is taking the drug as a preventive measure against the coronavirus, despite medical warnings about its usage.

U.S. President Donald Trump, in a surprise announcement, said on Monday he is taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive medicine against the coronavirus despite medical warnings about the use of the malaria drug.

"I'm taking hydroxychloroquine," Trump told reporters. "I've been taking it for the last week and a half. A pill every day."

Trump said he also took a single dose of azithromycin, an antibiotic which is meant prevent infection. In conjunction with hydroxychloroquine, Trump said he was taking zinc.

"All I can tell you is so far I seem to be OK," Trump said.

The president repeatedly has touted hydroxychloroquine - used to treat malaria, lupus and other diseases - and the antibiotic azithromycin, often sold under the brand name Zithromax, or as a 'Z-pack,' to be used to treat the coronavirus.

Trump said he is taking both medications but has had no side effects.

"I'm taking the two - the zinc and the hydroxy," he said. "Every day. I take a pill every day."

"At some point I'll stop," he added. 

He said he has 'zero symptoms' of the coronavirus, is tested daily and has tested negative.

"Totally negative, no symptoms, no nothing," the president said. 

"I've heard a lot of good stories. And if it is not good, I will tell you right. I'm not going to get hurt by it. It has been around for 40 years for malaria, for lupus, for other things. I take it," he said.

Trump volunteered the disclosure during a question-and-answer session with reporters as he met restaurant executives whose businesses are reeling from the impact of the virus.

Weeks ago Trump had promoted the drug as a potential treatment based on a positive report about its use against the virus, but subsequent studies found that it was not helpful. The Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning about its use.

In an April 24 statement, the FDA said it is "aware of reports of serious heart rhythm problems" in patients with Covid-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine or an older drug, chloroquine.

Trump, 73, who is tested daily for the virus, said he had asked the White House physician if it was OK to take the drug, and the doctor told him, "well, if you'd like it."

The president, a well-known germaphobe, has nonetheless refused to wear a protective mask in the West Wing.

The disclosure came as Moderna Inc reported progress in a potential vaccine for the virus. The only drug that has emerged so far as a potential treatment is Gilead Sciences Inc's remdesivir.

Fox News Channel, immediately after Trump's remarks, interviewed Dr. Bob Lahita, a professor of medicine at Rutgers University, who cautioned people not to take hydroxychloroquine.

"There's no effect that we have seen and we have treated multiple patients with it," he said.

Trump said he asked the White House physician about taking it.

"He said well if you'd like it. I said 'yeah I'd like it, I'd like to take it;", Trump said. 

"I was just waiting to see your eyes light up when I said this," he told the assembled media.

The president said many front-line workers also take it. 

"You'd be surprised at how many people are taken and especially the front-line workers before you catch it, the front-line workers many, many are taking it," he noted. 

He said he's confident in the drugs because he's heard good things about them.

"Here's my evidence. I get a lot of positive calls about it," he said. 

Hydroxy has potentially serious side effects, including altering the heartbeat in a way that could lead to sudden death, and the FDA has warned against its use for coronavirus infections except in formal studies. 

The president shrugged off reports of its side effects.

"You're not going to get sick or die," he said about taking the medication. I've taken it about for a week and a half now. And I'm still here."

A study released last Monday showed hydroxychloroquine does not work against Covid-19 and could cause heart problems.

It was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and follows an earlier study in the New England Journal of Medicine that also showed the drug doesn't fight the virus.

Additionally, the US Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health issued warnings about using the drugs for coronavirus patients.

"Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have not been shown to be safe and effective for treating or preventing Covid-19. They are being studied in clinical trials for Covid-19, and we authorised their temporary use during the Covid-19 pandemic for treatment of the virus in hospitalised patients,' the FDA warning said. 

"Although there is anecdotal evidence that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin may benefit people with Covid-19, we need solid data from a large randomised, controlled clinical trial to determine whether this experimental treatment is safe and can improve clinical outcomes," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and head of the NIH said last week.

Trump dismissed such studies.

"If you look at that phony report that was put - in that report or the hydroxy was given to people that were an extraordinarily bad condition, extraordinary bad people that were dying. No, I think for whatever it's worth I take I was," he said.

The president said a doctor in New York wrote to him about treating his patients with both hydroxy and the z-pack.

He did not mention a name but the description fits that of Vladimir Zelenko, a New York doctor who has promoted hydroxy as a coronavirus treatment and has been touted by Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Federal prosecutors are examining Zelenko's records after conservative commentator Jerome Corsi, accidentally sent an email intended for Zelenko to another 'Z' name in his address book - federal prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky, who as a member of special counsel Robert Mueller III's team who examined Corsi's activities during the 2016 presidential election, according to .

Zelinsky is tasked now with investigating coronavirus-related crimes in the Maryland U.S. attorney's office, including fake cures for the disease. 

Trump's enthusiasm for the drugs was based on a French study of 20 patients in March that showed the drugs might work against the virus. But many scientists have questioned the methods that study and one from China used, saying more research on the drugs were needed.

Trump has repeatedly touted stories he's heard of hydroxy's effect on those with the coronavirus.

In early April, he mentioned  Michigan State Rep. Karen Whitsett, who he saw on Ingraham's show the previous evening talking about her experience with the drug.

"A woman last night, I watched her on one of the shows, good show, Laura, and she thought she was dead. She was a representative from Michigan. She was just in horrible shape for 12 days, 14 days. She thought she was dead. I think she said that her doctor said it's going to be very tough. She saw me talking about this and she asked her husband to go to the drugstore. This is a Democrat representative, a person that you know perhaps wouldn't be voting for me. I think she will be voting for me now even if she's a Democrat," he said. 

"She asked her husband, she said please go out. I'm not going to make it. You have to hear her story. Please go out and get it. He went at 10:00 in the evening to the drug store and he got it. He gave it to her. I don't say it works like this but four hours later she woke and she said I feel better. And then shortly thereafter she felt great," the president said. 

Ingraham met with Trump in the Oval Office to tout the drug. Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, has been an advocate of the disease.  

Trump repeatedly has advocated for hydroxychloroquine to be used as a treatment option for the coronavirus even as many medical officials - including Dr Anthony Fauci, who sits on the White House Coronavirus Task Force - have urged a more cautious approach, noting the lack of reputable scientific studies on hydroxychloroquine.

And, in early April, during an impromptu White House press briefing Trump stopped Fauci from answering a question from a reporter about the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine.


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