WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he will soon complete his course of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug he started taking to ward off coronavirus despite a lack of evidence it has any effect on a disease that has killed more than 93,000 people in the United States and nearly 326,000 worldwide.
“I think the regimen finishes in a day or two. I think it’s in two days,” he told reporters at the White House.
Trump revealed on Monday that he began taking a combination of hydroxychloroquine and zinc two weeks ago as a preventative measure.
The drug has long been used to treat illnesses such as malaria, lupus and severe arthritis. As the coronavirus spread across the world, some doctors turned to hydroxychloroquine, though usually only as a last resort.
Clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 are still in progress and it remains unclear whether it has any value as a prophylactic for the disease or in hastening recovery for people infected with the virus.
The president had already drawn criticism from the medical community for touting the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine against COVID-19 and the negative reaction intensified once he disclosed he was taking the drug.
“I think it’s worthwhile as a line of defense, and I plan on staying on it for a little while longer,” Trump said Wednesday. “I’m just very curious myself.”
He emphasized that he had not noticed any negative side-effects from the medication, which, according to a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning issued last month, can cause severe heart problems.
A study published at the end of April in the International Journal of Rheumatic Diseases said there was insufficient evidence to support the claim that hydroxychloroquine can prevent infection with the coronavirus.
The Senate heard testimony last week from Dr. Rick Bright, a vaccine expert who claimed he was demoted from his position in the Department of Health and Human Services because he voiced concerns about the president’s promotion of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment.
Trump’s praise for the drug has also made it difficult for lupus and arthritis sufferers to obtain hydroxychloroquine.
The US remains by far the global center of the pandemic, with 1.5 million confirmed cases.