Editorial: Hydroxychloroquine Is Now a Partisan Topic
The first time the word “hydroxychloroquine” stumbled its way out of Donald Trump’s mouth during a daily White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing, viewers knew it was destined to become a partisan topic. Donald Trump’s continued hyping of hydroxychloroquine as a possible “miracle cure” despite the fact that the FDA has not yet approved it for treatment of COVID-19 has led his supporters, as usual, to disregard science and concrete evidence in favor of whatever Donald Trump says.
Those who challenge Trump’s promotion of the drug, also known as Plaquenil, by pointing out that we don’t have enough evidence yet, that we should tread carefully—that hydroxychloroquine is still in the trial stages for use in combatting COVID-19—are now met with hostility, labeled as partisan, and accused of wanting Trump to fail more than they want to see an effective treatment. Apparently, support or non-support of using the untested drug on coronavirus patients has become a test of one’s fealty to Donald Trump.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, has repeatedly warned that there is no wide or definitive data to support the drug’s efficacy in treating COVID-19, but according to an April 6 report in Politico, “Behind the scenes, career health officials have raised even stronger warnings about the risk to some Americans’ heart health and other complications, but been warned not to publicly speak out and potentially contradict Trump.”
“What do you have to lose?” Trump has said, as he encourages the drug’s use. “It’s been out there for a long time. What do you have to lose? I hope they use it.”
In his characteristic manner of setting up an untruth in such a way that he can easily backpedal it later, if necessary, he has also said, “What do I know? I’m not a doctor, but I have common sense. The FDA feels good about it, as you know, they approved it.”
Donald Trump’s carefully placed “As you know, they approved it” refers to the FDA having approved hydroxychloroqine years ago as a drug for malaria, as well as for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Trump knows that anyone who chooses to will understand it to mean that the FDA has approved it for use against the coronavirus.
The FDA has now authorized limited emergency use of Plaquenil for trial on certain COVID-19 patients, only. Medical experts warn, however, that the reported benefits of the drug for treating COVID-19 are anecdotal, and that very little scientific evidence exists yet to confirm its effectiveness. Not only should the drug not be pushed to the general public without thorough testing, it could cost the lives of some patients.
Does it make Trump supporters at all uneasy that their president is promoting a drug against the advice of the leading medical experts and scientists? Does it frighten them, even a little, that these leading scientists and medical experts are now being cautioned against disagreeing with the president, who is not a scientist or medical expert?
Apparently, the answer is no. Trump supporters not only ignore the disturbing scene of a president who repeatedly overrides the experts, they borrow from Trump’s false narrative to speak with authority about the drug’s benefits, as well as how “safe” it is to use.
As they have done with the topic of the coronavirus itself, Donald Trump’s supporters take their cues from him regarding what they see as fact and fallacy. The virus quickly became a partisan issue, and even now, it is often possible to guess who supports Donald Trump and who doesn’t by how they’re responding socially and logistically to the virus and the prevention of its spread.
Trump supporters’ unquestioning loyalty to Donald Trump, combined perhaps with an irrational desire for a miracle, has added the hydroxychloroquine topic to the list of other now-partisan topics that, were rational thought involved, should never be partisan issues.
Right-wing pundits such as Fox News’ Laura Ingraham have begun using their pulpits to promote hydroxychloroquine to their audiences, contributing to the partisanship surrounding it. Ingraham even went so far as to mock Dr. William Haseltine, a former professor at Harvard Medical School who has done groundbreaking research on HIV/AIDS, calling him a “quack” when he doubted the drug’s efficacy.
If at some point in the future, hydroxychloroquine does prove to be a “game changer” for treating COVID-19, we all win.
If, however, hydroxychloroquine proves to be ineffective, will world-class medical experts still have to tread lightly around Donald Trump with the evidence? Will scientific proof still be viewed with hostility as nothing more than the desire to “see Trump fail”? If we become sick with COVID-19 and the ER doctor is a Trump supporter, will he or she choose hydroxychloroquine for us over other, possibly better choices?
Trump grilled over continued promotion of hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus | Guardian News [2020-04-06]
Trump Adviser Navarro Clashes With Fauci Over Coronavirus Treatment Endorsed By President Trump | NBC News [2020-04–6]