President Donald Trump said the government was putting millions of doses of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine into an emergency stockpile even though it has not been approved for Covid-19 treatment.
He said that the federal government was placing millions of doses of a malaria drug in the federal stockpile of emergency medical supplies to make it available for coronavirus patients, even though the drug has not been approved for Covid-19 treatment and his top coronavirus advisers have warned that more study is needed to determine its safety and efficacy.
Though advisers, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have cautioned many times that more data is needed on the drug, hydroxychloroquine, Mr. Trump, in a White House briefing, went so far as to urge patients to take it.
“What do you have to lose? Take it,” the president said. “I really think they should take it. But it’s their choice. And it’s their doctor’s choice or the doctors in the hospital. But hydroxychloroquine. Try it, if you’d like.”
During the briefing, as Dr. Fauci and other advisers looked on, the president talked about the potential of other medicines, too. He mentioned azithromycin, often referred to as a Z-Pak, which has been given to some patients along with hydroxychloroquine.
“The other thing, if you have a heart condition, I understand, probably you stay away from the Z-Pak. But that’s an antibiotic. It can clean out the lung. The lungs are a point of attack for this horrible virus.”
In addition to treating malaria, hydroxychloroquine is also prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and some other autoimmune diseases. Laboratory studies in cultured cells have suggested that it may block the coronavirus from invading cells. And some researchers think its ability to dial back an overactive immune system — the reason it is used for autoimmune diseases — might help relieve the life-threatening inflammation that develops in some coronavirus patients.
Still, there is no definitive proof that it works against the coronavirus, and it does not have Food and Drug Administration approval for that use. Early reports from China and France suggested that it could help, but the studies had flaws that made the findings less than reliable. Many researchers have called for controlled clinical trials to determine once and for all whether hydroxychloroquine has any value for coronavirus patients.