Trump’s use of anti-malaria drug against COVID-19 escalates debate

Even FDA has vacillated on using hydroxychloroquine

WASHINGTON (WKBT) — President Donald Trump is challenging medical experts’ criticism that his use of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure against the novel coronavirus could propel widespread misuse among Americans.
Hydroxychloroquine, also used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, has potentially fatal side effects, medical authorities say. Debates have raged over using it against COVID-19 since the pandemic started and Trump began touting it as a game changer against the disease, which has killed more than 90,000 people in the United States.
On Monday, Trump announced that he began taking the drug about two weeks ago, insisting that its use against malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis have proved safe.
Tthe president’s White House physician, Sean Conley, said in a White House memo Monday that he had had “numerous” discussions with Trump about the pros and cons of using hydroxychloroquine, “eventually concluding that the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risk.”
The memo did not confirm Trump is receiving the medication, which the president said he is taking in pill form once a day.
Early in March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine against COVID-19 for patients infected with the coronavirus.
Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement saying it could be prescribed for teens and adults with COVID-19, “as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible.”
But on April 24, the FDA issued a caution  against its use against COVID-19 “outside of the hospital setting or a clinical trial due to risk of heart rhythm problems.”
In that alert, the FDA said, “Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have not been shown to be safe and effective for treating or preventing COVID-19.” The National Institutes of health issued similar reservations, saying the data are inconclusive.
Trump begged to differ Tuesday, saying, “This is an individual decision to make.”
The president also assailed a Veterans Administration study that not only found no benefits from using the drug but also indicated it could have increased death rates. Analysts of that study said more research is needed.
Trump disputed the VA study, saying after a lunch with Republican lawmakers, “They were giving it to people who were in very bad shape. Almost dead.”
The VA study was an “enemy statement” meant to embarrass him, The Associated Press reported Trump as saying.
Other side effects that the website — considered a reliable source of drug information — lists as being associated with the drug include seizures, mood changes, bad dreams, balance problems, muscle weakness, hearing and vision loss, dizziness, weight loss, stomach pain or diarrhea, skin color changes and a change in hair color or hair loss.

The Associated Pres contributed to this report.