Trump Repeats Call for Anti-Malaria Drug to Treat Coronavirus
A bottle of Prasco Laboratories Hydroxychloroquine Sulphate is arranged for a photograph in the Queens borough of New York, U.S. (Photographer: Christopher Occhicone/Bloomberg)

Trump Repeats Call for Anti-Malaria Drug to Treat Coronavirus

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump repeated his controversial and unproven claim that an anti-malaria drug can be used to treat coronavirus patients, convening a group of virus survivors at the White House that included a Democratic state representative from Michigan who praised the president’s advocacy for the drug.

The president praised hydroxychloroquine -- as he regularly does in news conferences -- after asking whether Karen Whitsett, the lawmaker, felt better more quickly after taking the medication.

“You know, if somebody else endorsed that medication, it would be great,” Trump said on Tuesday. “If it was somebody else other than President Trump that put it forward -- if some other person put it forward and said, ‘Oh let’s go with it’ -- what do you have to lose?”

Whitsett, who said she also had Lyme disease and feared for her life, said she got better after taking the drug, though it took a while.

Trump has said hydroxychloroquine shows “tremendous promise” against the new coronavirus. Other health experts like Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have been more cautious, emphasizing the need for further study.

Demand for the drug has surged since Trump put it in the spotlight. The Food and Drug Administration officially placed hydroxychloroquine on the drug shortage list Tuesday, following reports of hoarding and patients using it to prevent Covid-19.

The meeting is a rare example of Trump focusing on the human toll from the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 23,600 people and infected over 583,000 in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University. Roughly 44,300 people have recovered from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The discussion with victims of the virus comes as the president says the administration is close to completing a plan to “open up” the U.S., possibly “ahead of schedule” as social distancing guidelines have collapsed the economy.

On Wednesday, Trump said he will make a decision on reopening “quickly.”

Trump claims he has the power to order states to end stay-at-home guidelines, setting up the potential for a clash with governors who say making such decisions is their responsibility.

Trump has vehemently defended his administration’s efforts to combat the virus. The president’s response has come under renewed scrutiny in media reports saying Trump dismissed early warnings about the threat posed to the U.S. by the coronavirus, and that his administration botched its roll-out of widespread testing and was slow to acquire needed medical supplies.

During a testy news conference on Monday, Trump declared that “everything we did was right” and played a campaign-style video that defended his record and highlighted examples of the news media and medical professionals downplaying the threat posed by the virus.

Government health experts say that recovered patients could serve a critical role in helping beat back the pandemic by donating plasma. Researchers say the plasma from those who have recovered may contain antibodies that could help neutralize the infection in critically ill patients battling the virus.

During the White House event Wednesday, Trump told Whitsett, the Michigan Democrat, that he believed she now wouldn’t vote for “Sleepy Joe,” referring to former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee to take on Trump in November. Whitsett didn’t respond, saying she was just telling her story.

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