President Trump on Tuesday again touted anti-malaria drugs as a potential treatment for coronavirus, and extolled their safety, despite the lack of scientific studies on the matter.
“It’s been out there for a long time,” Trump said of the drug chloroquine and a related drug, hydroxychloroquine. “Very powerful drug. But it’s been out there, so it’s tested in the sense that you know it doesn’t kill you.”
Facts First: Trump is right that the drugs have been available for a while, but he’s wrong to imply that they’ve been proven safe for Covid-19 patients. Public health officials have said testing is still needed, and trials are underway.
Over the weekend, the US Food and Drug Administration gave emergency authorization for doctors to use the drugs in hospitals for a limited set of Covid-19 cases. Some physicians have already been using the malaria drugs off-label to treat coronavirus patients.
The drugs have been used to safely prevent and treat malaria, and for lupus and other conditions. But there isn’t scientific data proving that they’re safe for coronavirus patients.
There’s no evidence to back up Trump’s assertion that it’s already known that Covid-19 patients won’t die from the treatment. The drug can lead to cardiac side effects, including an irregular heartbeat, which can be especially dangerous for patients with Covid-19, doctors say.
Early tests are underway now in New York, the hardest hit area in the US with more than 75,000 cases.
This isn’t the first time Trump has made this comment. His messaging on the drugs have been far more optimistic than the messaging from the public health officials that have attended the daily White House briefings.