US President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended his taking antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a line of defence' against coronavirus. "I think it's worth it as a line of defence and I'll stay on it for a little while longer. I'm just very curious myself, but it seems to be very safe," Trump told reporters at the White House, a day after he disclosed that he has been taking the drug to ward off the deadly infection.
The US president said the drug has gotten a bad reputation only because 'he was promoting it'. "So, I am obviously a very bad promoter. If anybody else were promoting it, they would say this is the greatest thing ever," he said.
"It is a very powerful drug I guess but it doesn't harm you and so I thought as a frontline defence, possibly it would be good, and I have had no impact from it," Trump said, adding that the antimalaria drug has received tremendous reviews from doctors all over the world.
"There have been some great studies about it in countries like Italy, France and Spain and doctors in the US have been very positive about it, he claimed. Many doctors came out and said it's great," he said.
"I have a doctor in the White House. I said what do you think? And it's just a line of defence," he said, adding that the drug was inexpensive. Trump alleged that a recent study on Veteran Affairs patients was inaccurate and the drug was given to those who were on the verge of dying.
"There was a false study done where they gave it to very sick people, extremely sick people, people that were ready to die. It was given by obviously not friends of the administration and the study came out, the people were ready to die. Everybody was old, had bad problems with hearts, diabetes and everything else you can imagine," he said.
"So, they gave it. So, immediately when it came out, they gave a lot of false information," Trump said. Separately in an interview, Vice President Mike Pence said he is not taking hydroxychloroquine. "I'm not. But I would never begrudge any American taking the advice of their physician," he said.
Hydroxychloroquine is a drug that's been around for more than 40 years for treatment of malaria. But, early in this process, the FDA approved what's called off-label use where physicians could prescribe hydroxychloroquine in terms they deemed appropriate. So, my physician has not recommended that, but I wouldn't hesitate to take the counsel of my doctor. Any American should do likewise, Pence said.
However, opposition leaders slammed Trump for taking the unproven drug.
"It's reckless to tell people he's using hydroxychloroquine. All of the experts say at best it doesn't help. So what about senior citizens who don't go to the doctor, who take hydroxychloroquine? Listening to the president. And at worst, it hurts you. So I don't know why he did it," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told MSNBC in an interview.