President Donald Trump is “feeling great” after taking hydroxychloroquine for two weeks in a bid to prevent infection of the CCP virus, the White House said, soon after Indian researchers found the drug is effective as a prophylactic.
“He’s feeling perfect. He’s feeling absolutely great after taking this regimen,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters in Washington.
“He would take it again if he thought he was exposed,” she added.
Researchers in India recently found hydroxychloroquine was effective when taken as a prophylactic. The country’s Council of Medical Research said all asymptomatic healthcare workers, whether they’re treating COVID-19 patients or not, should take the drug, along with other frontline workers and household contacts of confirmed CCP virus cases.
The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus causes a disease called COVID-19.
Using hydroxychloroquine to treat or prevent the disease or virus has proven divisive. Critics say there isn’t enough evidence to support its use, dismissing widespread anecdotal reports about its supposed effectiveness and some studies indicating the same. Proponents say enough evidence exists for further study and point to promising results, especially when the drug is combined with azithromycin and zinc.
There are no vaccines or proven treatments for COVID-19.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration experts said last month that people shouldn’t take hydroxychloroquine or the closely related chloroquine outside of clinical trials or the hospital, citing studies showing some patients experienced side effects, including heart issues. And an observational study published this month prompted the World Health Organization to suspend its research into the drug, despite some experts questioning the methods used in the study.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top U.S. health official, said this week that the available data suggests hydroxychloroquine isn’t effective.
Outside India, few studies have been published looking at hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine as a prophylactic. A global trial expected to involve tens of thousands of healthcare workers testing the drugs as preventative medicines launched this month in the United Kingdom.
Some recent studies found hydroxychloroquine is effective when used to treat COVID-19 if certain dosing levels and combinations are used. A group of researchers found early use of hydroxychloroquine at the relatively high dose of 800 milligrams was associated with an increase of survival in patients. Scientists separately concluded (pdf) that patients in hospitals treated with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, an antibiotic, for more than 48 hours have a reduced risk of being transferred to intensive care units and/or dying.
And another group found hydroxychloroquine plus antibiotics was a more effective treatment than ritonavir/lopinavir plus antibiotics and conservative treatment.
“It is notable that HQ plus antibiotics group had better clinical outcomes than the conservative treatment group despite the worse baseline clinical profiles … and prognostic factors such as age, LDH, lymphocyte count, and CRP,” the South Korean scientists wrote (pdf).
McEnany at the White House noted the hundreds of trials on hydroxychloroquine that are ongoing, including some looking at the drug as a preventative medicine.
She quoted Sarah Lofgren, an infectious disease doctor at the University of Minnesota Medical School, where researchers are testing hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic. Lofgren told Science News about possible side effects: “When used alone, we’re not seeing major issues.”
“Out of our thousands of patients, we’re not seeing things people are quite concerned about, particularly the heart arrhythmias,” Lofgren added.
While people should only take the drug when their doctor prescribes it, McEnany noted that hydroxychloroquine was approved decades ago and is used against malaria and two other maladies.
“When there’s a lot of hyperbole about this being unsafe … there are consequences—deterring people from being recruited into actual clinical trials,” she said. “It’s important to note that this drug has been safely used by millions of people for a long time.”