Trump says he is taking anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine

‘I happen to think it’s good,’ says US president of drug not approved to treat Covid-19

US president Donald Trump has said that he has been taking the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, the controversial medication that has not been approved by US regulators to treat Covid-19.

Speaking as he hosted restaurant executives in the White House, Mr Trump said he had been taking a daily pill for a week and a half.

“A lot of good things about the hydroxy[chloroquine] have come out . . . you’d be surprised at how many people have taken it,” he said, confirming that he had asked the White House doctor to prescribe it.

“I just want to be open with the American public. I happen to think it’s good.”

Asked if he had any evidence of the preventative powers of the drug, Mr Trump replied: “This is the evidence. I get a lot of positive calls about it.”

“I’ve been taking it for a week and a half and I’m still here,” he said. “All I can tell you is that so far I feel okay . . . What do you have to lose.”

He said that many frontline workers are taking the drug “and they seem to be doing very well”.

Mr Trump has previously touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine for treating coronavirus, as well as suggesting that the ingestion of bleach or UV light could possibly offer a treatment for the pathogen that has claimed more than 85,000 lives in the United States.

But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – the main US regulatory body – has warned of serious heart problems in patients with Covid-19 being treated with hydroxychloroquine, and notes that it has not been shown to be “safe and effective for treating or preventing Covid-19”.

The National Institute of Health has also advised against taking the drug as a treatment for coronavirus.

Attack on Obama

Mr Trump also renewed his attack on President Barack Obama and former vice-president Joe Biden, accusing them of trying to "take down" his presidency.

“I think President Obama was one of the worst presidents in the history of this country. He was an incompetent president . . . He did a terrible job,” he said as he answered questions from reporters. “There was great division in this country with President Obama. You didn’t see it, but there was great division.”

Mr Trump has in recent days promulgated the concept of "Obamagate" – a theory that the Obama administration launched a politically-motivated investigation into Mr Trump's first national security adviser Michael Flynn and others.

"Personally I have no doubt that they were involved it," he said on Monday. "It's a hoax . . . What they've done to this country with these phony investigations," he said, referring to the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the probe into Mr Trump's links with Ukraine, which led to his impeachment.

“The Mueller investigation was a waste of time from day one – I think there are a lot of bad people involved and they should pay a very big price if they are involved.”

Mr Trump was responding to questions about the suggestion by attorney general William Barr earlier in the day that he doesn't believe that there will be a criminal investigation into either Mr Obama or Mr Biden. Mr Trump said he was "surprised" by Mr Barr's comments that suggested "double standards".

“If it was me, I’d guarantee they’d be going after me,” he said.

Later on Monday, the White House released a letter from White House physician Sean Conley, outlining why the treatment had been prescribed to the president.

“After numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded that the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the potential risk,” he said. He noted that the president “is in very good health and has remained symptom free. He receives regular Covid-19 testing. All negative to date.”

At least two members of the White House staff have tested positive for coronavirus in recent weeks.

Asked for her response to the news that the president is taking a drug that has not been approved to treat coronavirus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said:

“He’s our president and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his shall we say weight group… morbidly obese, they say.”

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent