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On Monday, President Trump surprised reporters when he announced that he has been taking the drug hydroxychloroquine, which has no proven benefit as a prophylactic, in an apparent effort to ward off the coronavirus. Despite the FDA’s warning last month that using the drug outside of clinical trials could result in “serious and potentially life-threatening heart rhythm problems,” the president announced he had been on the antimalarial for a little over a week. “And I’m still here,” he added.
While the president dismissed “phony reports” funded by his own administration that showed that the drug failed to treat coronavirus patients, he provided an anecdotal explanation for his new regimen. “Here’s my evidence,” Trump said. “I get a lot of positive calls about it.” Hours after the bizarre press conference, the president’s physician Dr. Sean P. Conley wrote a letter justifying his apparent decision to take hydroxychloroquine, which didn’t clear much up.
Considering past missives from Trump’s physicians, the letter from Connelly was vague to the point of uselessness. As Slate’s Ashley Feinberg pointed out, the letter’s most notable feature — aside from the comedic premise of the pair’s “numerous discussions” about wanting to take the unproven drug — is that it doesn’t even confirm if the president is on hydroxychloroquine.
Though clinical trials have so far shown that the antimalarial is not an effective treatment for patients who have contracted the virus, there are two studies underway hoping to determine if the drug is able to provide a layer of prevention — though neither has produced any results. However, if Trump is taking the drug with advance knowledge from the studies showing it does serve as a prophylactic, there could be ethical concerns about the president’s decision to take it before the drug is available to front-line workers. There’s also the concern of hypocrisy if the germaphobic president, unwilling to wear a mask, is willing to take an unproven, potentially dangerous, and publicly inaccessible drug while encouraging states to reopen — at the potential expense of the working class.