His Excellency’s Drug



Washington is worried about Donald Trump’s anti-coronavirus prophylactic.

President Donald Trump admitted that in order to prevent getting COVID-19, he takes the antimalarial drug, hydroxychloroquine. The use of this medicine upset not only the public, but the political elite. Medical disputes over the efficacy of the medicine quickly turned into a political debate.

“If you are in a risky population, and you are taking this as a preventive treatment to ward off the virus or in a worst case scenario you are dealing with the virus… it will kill you. I cannot stress enough. This will kill you,” said Neil Cavuto, a host of Fox News, which is loyal to Trump. Cavuto couldn’t contain his criticism of the head of state. Despite whatever benefits the president claims the drug has, which include the treatment of malaria or lupus, one shouldn’t make the choice to take the drug just from seeing the president’s statement, where he says that the drug is just fine.

Trump casually made these claims on Monday, May 18. “You would be surprised at how many people are actually taking it … the front-line workers many, many are taking it. I happen to be taking it. I’m taking it—hydroxychloroquine,” the president said after meeting with restaurant representatives. He explained that he began taking the medicine “a couple of weeks ago.” “I’ve heard a lot of stories, and if it isn’t good, I’ll tell you, right? I’m not going to get hurt by it. It’s been around for 40 years for malaria, for lupus, for other things,” Trump continued enthusiastically.

Interestingly, the president discussed his use of hydroxychloroquine in response to a journalist’s question about Rick Bright, a former employee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Bright was previously involved in the development of a vaccine for COVID-19, but was fired from his post. In his complaint to supervisors, he said that he was suspended simply because he resisted the political pressure to actively promote hydroxychloroquine. Then, when speaking before Congress, he talked about the administration’s attempts to push for the early use of the drug, which meant skipping necessary procedures.

In general, doctors agree that hydroxychloroquine is not considered a good drug for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19, not only due to its ineffectiveness, but also to its side effects. It can cause tachycardia and arrhythmia.

The largest study, conducted by the University of Albany, showed that the death rate of those in a group of patients taking hydroxychloroquine—both with and without the antibiotic azithromycin—turned out to be comparable to those in the group of patients who did not take the drug. The only exception was with those who took the hydroxychloroquine and erythromycin simultaneously, where cardiac arrest was twice as likely.

Similar research was conducted in 25 hospitals among 1,438 patients, with an average age of 68. The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “The nail has virtually been put in the coffin of hydroxychloroquine,” commented William Schaffner, an adviser to the CDC, regarding the research results.

The American Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health also cautioned against the use of the combination of the two drugs, saying that they have not been proven effective.

However, the medical question quickly became politicized. Trump mentioned hydroxychloroquine’s effectiveness 50 times on social media and at conferences. “Hydroxychloroquine and azithromicin, taken together, have to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine. The FDA has moved mountains, thank you,” the president tweeted back on March 21. Those loyal to the president on Fox News often repeat his talking points. However, their enthusiasm has noticeably waned with the emergence of scientific research, especially after Trump’s recent admission.

That is why television host Cavuto’s warnings against hydroxychloroquine with his use of phrases like “it’ll kill you” seem completely out of character for Fox News. Cavuto has survived lymphoma and open heart surgery and was also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The other television hosts, such as the well-known Tucker Carlson, for example, have spoken in opposition. “Watching people in the media talk down a potentially lifesaving medicine because a politician they don’t like has endorsed it is probably the most shameful thing I, as someone who has done this for 20 years, I’ve ever seen. [It] is making a lot of us ashamed to work in the same profession as those people,” said Carlson back in April.

Another well-known Fox host, Sean Hannity, whose show Trump follows personally, also criticized “the media mob” for the “unhinged, nonstop, never-ending PR campaign against him. They acted like the president and his hope and optimism about the drug were some type of mortal sin.”

“I just have to say it’s very strange that someone’s choice of medication would be seen as a political story,” Carlson said in response to the president’s statement and the subsequent criticism of the president.

Criticism, I must admit, did follow. Immediately after the announcement that Trump takes hydroxychloroquine, Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the congressional leader of the Democratic Party, reacted to the news. “As far as the president is concerned, he’s our president and I would rather not be taking something not approved by the scientists especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight— morbidly obese, they say. So, I think it’s not a good idea,” Pelosi told CNN.

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