President Donald Trump said without evidence on Sunday that his political opponents would rather see coronavirus patients not improve to avoid giving him credit for touting an unproven anti-malarial drug as a treatment option.
Trump participated in a virtual town hall hosted by Fox News’ Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The president was asked about hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug he’s repeatedly pushed as a coronavirus treatment despite it not yet having been proven safe or effective for use on patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“I think the Democrats, the radical left, would rather see people ― I’m gonna be very nice, I’m not going to say ‘die’ ― I’m gonna say ‘would rather see people not get well,’ because they think I’m going to get credit if hydroxychloroquine works,” the president said.
Spokespersons for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment in response to Trump’s remarks on Sunday. Many opponents and health professionals have said there is no conclusive proof that hydroxychloroquine is effective for treating COVID-19.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, has tried to push back on Trump’s repeated promotion of the drug during daily news briefings on the pandemic. Fauci has said that experts can’t “definitively say it works,” and that the U.S. must be “careful that we don’t make that majestic leap to assume that this is a knockout drug.”
Trump’s own Food and Drug Administration has warned that the anti-malarial drug is dangerous in context of using it as a COVID-19 treatment.
“The FDA is aware of reports of serious heart rhythm problems in patients with COVID-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, often in combination with azithromycin and other QT prolonging medicines,” the FDA’s website says. “We are also aware of increased use of these medicines through outpatient prescriptions. Therefore, we would like to remind health care professionals and patients of the known risks associated with both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine.
“We will continue to investigate risks associated with the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for COVID-19 and communicate publicly when we have more information,” the agency continued. “Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have not been shown to be safe and effective for treating or preventing COVID-19.”
In a large analysis of hydroxychloroquine use in U.S. veterans hospitals, researchers reported last month that there were more deaths among those given the drug than those who received standard care. The nationwide study was not a rigorous one with 368 patients, but it is the largest look yet of hydroxychloroquine with or without the antibiotic azithromycin for COVID-19.
According to The New York Times, the president owns a stake in a company that produces hydroxychloroquine. Financial news site MarketWatch and The Washington Post later estimated Trump’s stake in French drugmaker Sanofi to be worth between $100 and $1,500. However, the Post noted his trusts may have amassed other investments since his latest disclosure.
On Friday, Trump and the FDA announced they have approved the experimental drug remdesivir for treating coronavirus patients requiring hospitalization. The drug is administered intravenously once a day for up to 10 days and is believed to help patients recover faster.
As of Sunday evening, the U.S. has confirmed more than 1.1 million cases of COVID-19 and 67,674 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.