Trump Continues To Endorse Malaria Drug To Treat Novel Coronavirus, Dividing White House Task Force, Raising Questions Over Motives

The Atlantic: Why Does the President Keep Pushing a Malaria Drug?
“…While some very early evidence has shown that hydroxychloroquine may influence the course of COVID-19, Trump is overriding his top medical adviser and minimizing serious risks by encouraging Americans to try the drug right now. … Based on the limited evidence so far, giving hydroxychloroquine to people could very well be — as with most drugs that modulate the immune system — of some benefit in some circumstances. Some people will be made sicker by it, depending on underlying physiology, other medications they’re taking, timing, and dosing. Identifying who stands to benefit and why requires data, and several randomized controlled studies of hydroxychloroquine are under way. But Trump has plunged ahead…” (Hamblin, 4/6).

New York Times: Trump’s Aggressive Advocacy of Malaria Drug for Treating Coronavirus Divides Medical Community
“…Mr. Trump may ultimately be right, and physicians report anecdotal evidence that has provided hope. But it remains far from certain, and the president’s assertiveness in pressing the case over the advice of advisers like Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease specialist, has driven a wedge inside his coronavirus task force and has raised questions about his motives. If hydroxychloroquine becomes an accepted treatment, several pharmaceutical companies stand to profit, including shareholders and senior executives with connections to the president. Mr. Trump himself has a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine…” (Baker et al., 4/6).

Washington Post: ‘What do you have to lose?’: Inside Trump’s embrace of a risky drug against coronavirus
“…Trump’s swift embrace of hydroxychloroquine — as well as azithromycin, which he has hyped as ‘one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine’ — illustrates the degree to which the president prioritizes anecdote and feeling over science and fact. It also has provoked an ugly divide within a White House already besieged as it struggles to make up for lost time in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. The president has frequently clashed with or undercut scientists leading the effort against the virus, from equivocating on whether to wear masks in public to repeatedly pressing to reopen businesses sooner than advised by public health experts. Hydroxychloroquine is still being studied for its effectiveness in treating covid-19, the disease the virus causes, but the Food and Drug Administration already has approved it for malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. That means doctors can prescribe the drug for covid-19 or other ailments on an off-label basis. The agency also has authorized the emergency use of the drug from the Strategic National Stockpile for certain hospitalized patients…” (Rucker et al., 4/6).

Additional coverage of Trump’s endorsement of hydroxychloroquine is available from ABC (Australia), Axios, Bloomberg, The Guardian, IBT, Newsweek, POLITICO (2), Reuters, STAT, USA TODAY, and Washington Post.

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

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