NO one knows better than Donald Trump how to steal the headlines. On Monday he stunned reporters with the news that he’s been taking hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that he promoted a few weeks ago as a ‘game changer’ treatment for Covid-19.
He revealed he’d been taking a pill a day for about a week and a half since two White House staff tested positive for COVID-19.
No one can say POTUS is a man without humour. When reporters asked if he was taking it because he’s exhibited symptoms, he replied, ‘Zero symptoms’. Then he told them that he was just waiting to see their eyes light up when he said it, adding, ‘and I’m still here. I’m still here to explain to you,’ as his pay-off line.
The reaction to his surprise announcement was predictable. Many outlets repeated an earlier Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning against taking hydroxychloroquine ‘outside a hospital setting or a clinical trial due to risk of heart rhythm problems.’ Nearly all focused on a lack of proof of the efficacy and safety of the drug. Trump’s Twittersphere trolls had a field day.
The response mirrored the negative media judgement on the drug I have reported on TCW here and here. I argued that the coverage has imperilled the future of what many believe to be a helpful treatment; that despite significant anecdotal evidence, as well as a number of studies, balancing in its favour ‘a torrent of negative findings and media reports in the United States has made the prospect of the treatment receiving any kind of official endorsement [at least in America] decidedly bleak’.
Apart from what might be a genuine belief that the treatment is effective, one suspects it is this that Trump is trying to counter. The letter from the White House Physician shows both he and the president are happy that the ‘potential benefit of the treatment outweighed the relative risks’. Dr Sean P Conley added: ‘In consultation with our inter-agency partners and subject matter experts around the country, I continue to monitor the myriad studies investigating potential COVID-19 therapies, and I anticipate employing the same shared medical decision-making based on the evidence at hand in the future.’
Trump the maverick has doubled down on his decision to be a solo ambassador for the drug, and has been drenched in vitriol as usual by his legions of opponents.
What is not said by the Fake News of Twitterland, nor mentioned by the MSM, is that this is a prophylactic drug that is being used by many doctors as well as the Indian government, which was initially reluctant to export it.
Many believe that, if taken early, it can help, as is also suggested by the different number of deaths in states including Texas and Florida and countries such as Turkey, Bahrain, Algeria and Costa Rica which have deployed it to tackle Covid-19, compared with those which banned its general use, for example New York.
Needless to say not only would the drug benefit from more research and monitoring, but it is also clear that the data available needs to be reported objectively and accurately which – with so much of what is said in America being so politicised – is not yet happening. What’s more, it is increasingly less likely that it will as the Presidential Election date in November approaches. It is shameful that politics has interfered in this process.
Whether the President wading further in will help or hinder the proper study and monitoring of this potentially beneficial treatment remains to be seen.
Editor’s Note: The British Government opened the way to the bulk purchasing of this drug, currently being tested by scientists here, on May 15.
The purpose of this piece is to highlight specific aspects of a topic of major concern for readers in the hope that it might be more effectively addressed, in the interest of public information, by the UK authorities and by the media. It does not seek to offer expert opinion about medical treatment, nor is the author qualified to do so. Medical advice, and advice about treatment, should be sought only from a qualified professional.