On Monday, President Donald Trump revealed that has been taking the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to stave off the coronavirus infection. The announcement comes despite the unproven effects of the drug as a cure for the global pandemic.
Hydroxychloroquine: Is it effective?
During a roundtable event at the White House, Trump said, "I happen to be taking it," and that "A lot of good things have come out. You'd be surprised at how many people are taking it, especially the front-line workers before you catch it. The front-line workers, many, many are taking it."
He expressed his optimism about the drug as he has heard a lot of "good stories" about it. Along with the drug, the president also said he is taking zinc as well as an initial dose of Z-Pak or more commonly known as azithromycin, as reported by CNBC.
Dr Sean Conley, the physician for the White House, released on Monday evening a memo that stated the president Dr Conley discussed and looked into the potential benefits and risks of hydroxychloroquine and have concluded: "The potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks."
One of Trump's staff had previously been found to have been infected with the coronavirus, and despite this, Conley reassured the nation that "The president is in very good health and has remained symptom-free. He receives regular COVID-19 testing, all negative to date."
Dr Conley has also stated that he is continually monitoring the status of the coronavirus crisis and the vaccines that are being developed to fight against it to find potential therapies that could aid the fight against the pandemic.
He anticipates that "employing the same shared medical decision making based on the evidence in hand in the future."
The experimental drug had received the support of the Trump administration since its discovery as a potential cure, although no real evidence can support the claim. It is also commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
When asked what evidence the president had to support his claim of the drug as a potential cure for the virus, he stated: "Here's my evidence: I get a lot of positive calls about it."
The truth behind the drug
According to BBC, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released an advisory last month, which said that hydroxychloroquine has "not been shown to be safe and effective."
Far from being a helpful drug, the FDA stated that it could potentially cause serious heart rhythm complications in patients that have been infected by the coronavirus.
The agency urged citizens to be wary of using the drug outside of hospitals and without a doctor's consent as the use of it has only been approved inside medical establishments and with certain criteria to be met.
Currently, no drugs or therapeutics have been shown to prevent or treat COVID-19, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The president assured that if the drug had any side effects, he would "tell you," and saying he has no stock in the company responsible for the drug, adding he wants "the people of this nation to feel good."
Trump also said that he cares for his citizens and does not want them falling ill, and believing that hydroxychloroquine has a "very good chance" to make an impact against the COVID-19.
The president said "I take a pill every day. At some point, I'll stop. What I'd like to is I'd like to have the cure and or the vaccine, and that'll happen I think very soon."
He also noted that the drug has been around for quite some time and that even if you take it, you are unlikely to get sick or even die.
An unintended effect
Despite the criticisms that president of the United States, with his unorthodox use of the drug, has garnered the support of India in its efforts to fight the coronavirus, as reported by APNews.
Due to Trump's reveal, the Asian country had its largest producer of the unproven drug manufacture much more of it to be used as a defence mechanism for front-line workers as well as a political tool.
India's policy regarding hydroxychloroquine changed significantly after the announcement by Trump that with the drug's use along with an antibiotic as potential "game-changers." The country's health ministry immediately approved the drug to be used in the fight against COVID-19.
The result is a massive surge in demand for the drug and a sharp decline of supply for patients that need it, such as those with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
"We should do a trial. I think that is the right way to come to answer on this question. But the (government) made our job harder," said Dr Bharath Kumar, who is part of a team that proposed a trial.
The news comes as the amount of evidence against using hydroxychloroquine as a cure or treatment for the coronavirus grows.