US President Donald Trump has admitted he’s been taking the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine for several days as a preventive medicine against the coronavirus, despite medical warnings about its use.
“I’ve been taking it for the last week and a half. A pill every day,” Mr Trump said on Monday (local time) during a meeting with restaurant executives about the impact of the virus in the US.
He said he has had “zero symptoms” from the drug and was getting tested every day for COVID-19, returning negative results.
“I started taking it, because I think it’s good,” Mr Trump said. “I’ve heard a lot of good stories.”
Mr Trump has previously touted the drug, related to the commonly used drug chloraquine and used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, despite serious medical warnings about its use.
Mr Trump has also previously suggested that injections of disinfectants or bleach, or the use of ultraviolet light, could be investigated as treatments COVID-19.
He later claimed he was being sarcastic after the comments were widely mocked, leading him to cancel daily White House press briefings.
Studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed hydroxychloroquine did not work against COVID-19 and could cause heart problems. Another in the New England Journal of Medicine also showed the drug didn’t fight the coronavirus.
CNN reported Mr Trump said he hadn’t been exposed to the coronavirus, and that he started taking the drug because he had heard from frontline responders who sent him letters saying they were taking it preventatively.
In April, Mr Trump promoted the drug as a potential treatment for the virus but subsequent studies found it was not helpful.
“It’s a very strong, powerful medicine. But it doesn’t kill people,” he said.
“We have some very good results and some very good tests. What really do we have to lose?”
Infectious diseases physician at Australia National University and former adviser to the World Health Organisation, Professor Peter Collignon, told The New Daily on April 30 it was concerning people were promoting a drug that has had mixed results.
“When this was first promoted, there was one study that showed benefits, but now there’s enough data to show it may not be any good. It may, in fact, kill people,” he said.
“You should only be able to use it if you’re part of a study. It may well cause more harm than good.
“I do think we need proper studies and strong regulations should be put in place if you’re in a study.”
The disclosure came as drugmaker Moderna reported progress in a potential vaccine for the virus.
The only drug that has emerged as a potential treatment is Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir, which is reserved for hospital patients.
Fox News, immediately after Mr Trump’s remarks, interviewed a doctor who cautioned people not to take hydroxychloroquine.
“There’s no effect that we have seen and we have treated multiple patients with it,” Dr Bob Lahita said.