President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he still thinks hydroxychloroquine is working against Covid-19, despite growing evidence that the antimalarial drug is ineffective in treating the virus.
Trump was asked by a reporter about a video shared on Twitter that went viral on social media platforms and claimed that hydroxychloroquine was "a cure for Covid" and "you don't need a mask" to slow the spread of the corona virus. The video was later flagged as misleading and has been removed since then.
"I have made no claims," Trump said of his tweet, noting that he shared recommendations from other people, including doctors.
"Many doctors find it extremely successful to combine the hydroxychloroquine with the zinc and maybe the azithromycin," he said. "Many doctors find it extremely good and some don't."
He admitted support for the drug has become political, mainly because he has touted it in the past.
"I happen to believe in it. I would take it. As you know, I took it for a fortnight. And as you know, I'm here. I happen to think it works in the early stages," he said said.
Trump insisted that the drug was safe and said he had "no problems".
"It's safe, it doesn't cause problems," he said. "I had no problems, I had absolutely no problems. I didn't feel any different. I didn't feel good, bad or indifferent … and I tested, as you know, it didn't catch me."
According to Johns Hopkins University, there are no FDA-approved medications for the coronavirus that has infected more than 16 million people worldwide and killed at least 655,300 people.
In addition to treating malaria, doctors often use hydroxychloroquine to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. It is known to have serious side effects, including muscle weakness and irregular heartbeat.
The drug caused excitement earlier this year after a handful of small studies suggested it could be useful, especially when combined with the antibiotic azithromycin. Trump promoted it as a possible treatment for the virus, saying he used it as a preventative measure against the disease. However, several larger studies showed that the drug was not helpful and caused heart problems in some patients.
For example, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that hydroxychloroquine is no better than a placebo in preventing coronavirus infections. The study, the first randomized placebo-controlled study to be the gold standard in science, examined 821 people in the United States and Canada who were exposed to the coronavirus.
Another study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that hospital patients who received the drug within 48 hours were on average more seriously ill than those who did not.
Last month, the Food and Drug Administration approved the medicine for an emergency, after finding that it was "unlikely" to treat people with Covid-19 effectively. Days later, the World Health Organization announced that the drug would be removed from its global study examining possible treatments for the coronavirus after data from the study indicated that it would not be beneficial.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's leading infectious disease expert, was asked about the drug earlier in the day.
He said, "The overwhelming prevalent clinical trials that have investigated the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine have shown that it is ineffective in coronavirus disease."