President Donald Trump has claimed that he's been taking the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine every day in an effort to avoid contracting coronavirus. But last month, the Food and Drug Administration warned against the use of the medication for COVID-19, saying that it's linked to serious heart problems. It should only be used during clinical trials or on patients hospitalised with coronavirus, the FDA cautioned.
And yet... "I’m taking hydroxychloroquine,” the president told reporters at the White House. Trump said that he's been taking the drug, which is also used by some lupus patients, "for about a week and a half" with alleged approval from the White House doctor. He also said many front-line workers, including doctors, have been taking the medication as a preventive treatment.
"All I can tell you is, so far I seem to be okay," Trump said. "[One doctor] said out of hundreds of people that he’s treated he hasn’t lost one... If it doesn’t [work] you’re not going to get sick or die."
According to a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, Internet searches for unproven coronavirus cures like chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine have been on the rise since Trump's first mention of the drug on 19th March.
Using hydroxychloroquine as a cure or preventive treatment for coronavirus is controversial. In March, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stated during a briefing that the previous testing done on the drug "was not done in a controlled clinical trial. So you really can’t make any definitive statement about it."
Back in March, Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, approved the use of hydroxychloroquine in combined usage with the antibiotic drug Zithromax in as many as 4,000 coronavirus infected patients throughout the state. But, in an 23rd April CNN town hall, Cuomo said that hydroxychloroquine "didn’t really have much of an effect on the recovery rate" of infected patients.
"As of last week, we stopped using hydroxychloroquine as a routine medication in our hospital based upon the cumulative experience in our hands and in others, and recommendations by the FDA that it should not be used outside of clinical trials," Charles Powell, MD, chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at the Mount Sinai Health System and CEO of the Mount Sinai-National Jewish Health Respiratory Institute said to Spectrum News on 7th May.
Ultimately, more testing needs to be done to decide whether hydroxychloroquine can be used to treat or prevent coronavirus, and if so, whether its potential benefits outweigh any harmful side effects.
The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. It says you can protect yourself by washing your hands, covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing (ideally with a tissue), avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and don't get too close to people who are coughing, sneezing or with a fever.
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