Memo from White House physician said he and Trump concluded the 'potential benefit' of hydroxychloroquine 'outweighed the relative risks' — despite no clear evidence yet that it works

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesFlanked by White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx (L) and Dr. Anthony Fauci (R), President Donald Trump delivers remarks about coronavirus vaccine development in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 15, 2020.
  • The president’s physician said in a memo that he ultimately decided with President Donald Trump that the “potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks” of taking anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic for coronavirus.
  • The memo did not confirm that Trump was taking hydroxychloroquine as he claimed on Monday during a press briefing. Nor did it give more details about its use.
  • Trump told reporters earlier Monday that he has been taking the drug “every day” for the past 10 days as a preventative measure against COVID-19.
  • However, hydroxychloroquine has not been proven to prevent infection. It is currently in clinical trials. Experts have warned against the use of the drug outside of hospital settings and trials.
  • The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning in April about the anti-malaria drug, saying that it can cause irregular heart rhythms in coronavirus patients.
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A memo from the White House physician said he discussed the benefits and health risks of hydroxychloroquine with President Donald Trump, and they ultimately “concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks.”

The president told reporters earlier Monday that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine – an anti-malaria drug – “every day” for the last 10 days as a preventative measure against COVID-19.

“I take it,” he said. “I would have told you that three, four days ago, but we never had a chance because you never asked me the question.”

Trump added that he asked the White House physician about the anti-malaria drug.

A spokesperson for the president confirmed to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman that Trump began taking hydroxychloroquine. When asked about the memo by Insider, the White House declined to elaborate.

Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were both previously touted by the president as a potential treatment for the coronavirus, though the drugs are still going through clinical trials to test whether or not it can prevent infection from the coronavirus.

There is currently no evidence that the anti-malaria drugs actually work for treating coronavirus, and the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning in April that hydroxychloroquine can cause irregular heart rhythms in COVID-19 patients.

In a May 8 letter, the lead doctor at the Henry Ford Health System, which is running a study on hydroxychloroquine wrote: “We are not involved in politics; we are scientists … There are no proven ways to keep people safe from COVID-19.” He wrote that the hospital’s doctors are only using the drug off label for (emphasis theirs) “sick, hospitalized, COVID-19 positive patients.”

“The US Food and Drug Administration recently warned against people taking hydroxychloroquine outside of hospital settings or clinical trials, as the drug can interact poorly with other medications, including the common antibiotic azithromycin,”Business Insider’s Hilary Brueck wrote.

In the memo, obtained by Bloomberg News’ Jennifer Epstein, the president’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, said he will “continue to monitor the myriad of studies investigating potential COVID-19 therapies.”

“I anticipate employing the same shared medical decision making based on the evidence at hand in the future,” he concluded.

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