President Donald Trump gave a thumbs up to reporters and cameras as he headed to the Marine One helicopter to depart for a weekend at Camp David, May 1, 2020.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

President Donald Trump announced on Monday that he’s been taking hydroxychloroquine, a malaria prophylactic drug, “every day” for the past 10 days in the hopes that it will provide him protection against catching the novel coronavirus.

The drug is also being used in clinical trials of healthcare workers to see if it might have a preventative effect.

But doctors and vaccine experts don’t recommend using hydroxychloroquine outside of hospitals and clinical trial settings because it can lead to heart problems and death. 

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President Trump said Monday that he is taking the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine daily in the hopes that it might prevent him from catching the novel coronavirus.

Trump said he’s been taking the drug “every day” for a week and a half along with zinc (a common cold remedy).

That timeline lines up, roughly, with when one of Vice President Pence’s staffers and a presidential valet both contracted the virus while working at the White House.

Clinicians don’t know yet whether hydroxychloroquine might confer the same kinds of disease-preventing benefits for the novel coronavirus as the drug does for malaria.

Hydroxychloroquine is currently being tried as a preventative measure for healthcare workers treating coronavirus patients in at least four different studies around the world. But it’s too soon to tell if the drug, which has not shown much promise as a coronavirus treatment strategy, will fare better in a prophylactic capacity.

“I take it,” the president told reporters Monday afternoon at the White House.”I would’ve told you that three, four days ago, but we never had a chance, because you never asked me the question.” 

A strip of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), an anti-malarial drug.

Samir Jana/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The US Food and Drug Administration recently warned against people taking hydroxychloroquine outside of hospital settings or clinical trials, as the drug can interact poorly with other medications, including the common antibiotic azithromycin. The drug can also be dangerous for people with psoriasis. Serious complications can include triggering of irregular heart rhythms, and, in some cases, death.

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(President Trump’s doctors have said in the past that he takes the cholesterol drug Crestor, and he has been on antibiotics to treat rosacea, but azithromycin hasn’t been mentioned as part of his care plan before.) 

Former US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) Director Rick Bright, a leading US vaccine scientist who says he was recently ousted from his post because of “politics and cronyism” in the country’s federal coronavirus response, testified before the House last week and voiced his concerns about the safety risks the drug might pose when used among the general public.

Bright said with the “limited knowledge” we have about hydroxychloroquine and how it does (or doesn’t) work against the coronavirus, any studies should be done “under close, watchful eye of a physician.” 

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