White House releases doctor's note on Trump's purported use of hydroxychloroquine

Trump talks to the press
(Image credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

President Trump's announcement Monday that he has been taking hydroxycholorquine as a prophylactic to ward off the COVID-19 coronavirus had its skeptics, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). "Maybe he's really not taking it because the president lies about things characteristically," Schumer told MSNBC. So the White House released a letter from White House physician Dr. Sean Conley.

Trump "is in very good health" and has tested negative for COVID-19 in his regular testing, Conley wrote. "After numerous discussions he and I had for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks." The letter did not actually say Conley had prescribed hydroxychlorquine to Trump or that Trump was taking it, but White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said Trump is taking the malaria drug.

Hydroxychloroquine has well-documented risks, including causing dangerous heart arrhythmia even in healthy people, and multiple studies have shown it has no apparent benefit for COVID-19 patients. The FDA granted emergency authorization to use hydroxycholorquine to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients before later issuing a safely advisory on April 24 warning of serious side effects and recommending its use only under close supervision of a doctor in a hospital or clinical trial.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) expressed concern about Trump's risk-taking on CNN. "He's our president, and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and his, shall we say, weight group — morbidly obese, they say," she told Anderson Cooper. (Trump, 73, is technically obese but not severely or morbidly so, The Associated Press notes.)

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New York's Olivia Nuzzi had a more practical critique.

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"Here's my evidence: I get a lot of positive calls about it," Trump told reporters. "The only negative I've heard was the study where they gave it — was it the VA with, you know, people that aren't big Trump fans gave it."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.