Editorial: We Should All Take Donald Trump’s Recommendation of Hydroxychloroquine Personally

Donald Trump’s relationship with hydroxychloroquine? We should take it personally. Trump’s casual announcement last week that he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a prophylaxis against COVID-19, knowing full well that some Americans would follow his example, demonstrated how little regard he has for Americans– those whom he has been entrusted to protect.

Trump began promoting the drug for treating COVID-19 back in March. Basing his support for the drug largely on anecdotal evidence and a small, non-randomized study, Trump touted it as a possible “game changer.” Our president, who is not our doctor nor anyone’s doctor, took it upon himself to recommend a prescription drug to the general public. No president should even recommend a daily aspirin, let alone an unproven and possibly dangerous prescription drug.

We should take that personally.

As expected, by late March, Trump’s allies and his base had jumped on the hydroxychloroquine bandwagon, with nothing more to go on than Donald Trump’s recommendation. A national shortage of the drug ensued, as physicians began writing prescriptions for their families and friends, “just in case.” As a result, patients who rely on the drug to treat serious autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis have been finding themselves unable to get their prescriptions filled.

Because of the serious shortage, the Lupus Foundation, along with other advocacy groups, began lobbying for legislation to protect the supply’s availability to those for whom hydroxychloroquine is a lifesaver. Donald Trump was unconcerned. He might as well have said to those with lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and those who love them, “Yes, but you don’t really matter.” We take it personally.

Recently, medical experts have recommended against using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, citing cardiac risks, among others. Americans who have all along trusted science more than we trusted the president’s questionable motives for touting the drug, shook our heads and continued on. Many Trump supporters, however, were angry at the experts for disagreeing with Donald Trump’s advice to use the drug. Again, we shook our heads, but thought that Trump would stop talking about the drug, and the hydroxychloroquine hysteria would fade away.

Last week, when Trump said that he had been taking hydroxychloroquine as a prophylaxis against COVID-19, many Americans were stunned. Some wondered if he was really taking it. Others wondered if his doctor was just giving him a placebo to placate him. A few even speculated that Trump had COVID-19 and didn’t want to admit it. Some Trump supporters simply seized on more fuel for their hydroxychloroquine zealotry.

Since then, the WHO has officially warned against the use of hydroxychloroquine against COVID-19. It has currently halted its clinical trials using hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19, citing “concerns that the drug may do more harm than good.” (“Harm” includes possible death.)

Has Donald Trump stepped up in response to the WHO’s announcement to warn Americans or to walk back his recommendation of the drug? So far, no. The only response from the Oval Office on the topic of hydroxychloroquine has been silence.

If we weren’t already well aware of how little Donald Trump values the lives of others, his unrelentless desire for Americans to use hydroxychloroquine against the advice of medical experts should confirm it for us. Maybe he doesn’t consider the many Americans who will unquestioningly try to follow his example and poison themselves. Maybe he does consider that, and doesn’t care. Maybe he doesn’t consider anything but his potential financial gain from the drug’s widespread use.

Donald Trump has recommended a prescription drug that has been found to be risky and possibly lethal. It can also cause retinal damage and other serious side effects. Is there any scenario where we can believe that he isn’t disregarding our safety and well-being? Donald Trump and his recommendation of hydroxychloroquine? We should all take it personally.

Trump says he’s taking hydroxychloroquine. Dr. Gupta says he shouldn’t | CNN [2020-05-18]

Trump Says Malaria Drug Approved to Treat Coronavirus
Bloomberg Markets and Finance | [2020-03-19]

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]