Reaction to President Trump’s acknowledgment he is taking malaria drug to try to prevent COVID-19

Coronavirus

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Medical experts throughout the nation are reacting after revelations from President Donald Trump that he is taking a daily dose of the drug hydroxychloroquine, which the president has touted as something that can treat or prevent COVID-19.

“My evidence is I get a lot of positive calls about the drug,” said Trump as he spoke to reporters on Monday. 

The president asserted that even if the drug “doesn’t work, it won’t make me sick or make me die.”

At Savannah’s Memorial Health, Dr. Stephen Thacker, who is an infectious disease physician, said he has concerns about the president taking the drug because there are no clinical studies supporting Trump’s claims.

“The treatment and prevention of COVID-19 is not an FDA (Food and Drug Administration) indicated use for the drug at this time,” said Thacker. 

“If I was a person in a leadership role I would want to make sure I’m sort of modeling good approaches to health care,” said Thacker. “And while there are studies ongoing about the effects of hydroxychloroquine in folks that are very ill from COVID 19 the jury’s still out on whether this provides benefits to patients whether it actually provides more harm.”

He added: “So my message would be if I’m not part of a clinical trial where this is studied for both its outcome and its safety I’m not sure I’d experiment on myself.”

Thacker says early on in the health crisis, some hospitals did try using hydroxychloroquine on very sick coronavirus patients that were confined in the hospital.

“So that would be very ill patients that have been admitted to the hospital where they’re looking for anything to provide benefit,” he explained. “But that is all under review where we have a controlled process and are expected to give and take where we provide information about how the patient handled the treatment and whether it was harmful.

“But the anecdotal evidence is that it’s really unclear it provided any benefit but we do know there are very real side effects of the medicine.”

Thacker says hydroxychloroquine can affect the way the heart beats which could “essentially be harmful to the person and it could even be life-threatening.”

Georgia Congressman Buddy Carter, a Republican from District 1 and the only pharmacist in Congress told News 3 he did not necessarily see a problem with the president taking the drug which was prescribed by the White House physician. While many in the medical community disagree with the idea the drug is useful, Carter indicated that there is information that says taking the drug early on can help prevent COVID-19.

“He is under obviously a physician’s care so they are going to be monitoring that (his health) and I am sure that if there are any signs at all of (complications) they will pull back,” said Carter.

Again, Thacker points out the FDA has not approved this drug as any kind of a cure or preventative. 

Hydroxychloroquine is approved by the FDA for not only a treatment for malaria but also for a number of anti-immune diseases.  Now there is word there may be shortages of hydroxychloroquine.

“And so it is a real concern that if we use up the supply of this medicine that we may not have it available for those who truly need it and where there is proven evidence it helps the treatment of their disease,” said Thacker.

Trump did tell reporters Monday that “those on the frontline, such as doctors and nurses, are taking hydroxychloroquine.

Thacker told WSAV he’s “not taking this and knows of no one at Memorial that is.” He also said of all those in the medical community nationwide that he keeps in touch with, he knows of “no one who is taking this prophylactically.”

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