WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday admitted that his enthusiasm for an antimalarial drug unproven as a coronavirus treatment was based largely on gut instinct, after an open disagreement with the nation’s top infectious disease expert at a White House press briefing.

When reporters asked Tony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, whether the drug hydroxychloroquine was effective at preventing coronavirus, he said simply: “The answer is no.”

But when Trump came back to the microphone, he told reporters that “we ought to give it a try.”

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“I think we disagree a little bit,” Trump added. “I feel good about it. That’s all it is, just a feeling, you know, smart guy. I feel good about it.”

The drug, long used to treat malaria and diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, has shown limited efficacy at treating coronavirus, and has not yet been fully tested either as a treatment or preventive medicine in a formal trial. Trump, nonetheless, said the White House had ordered millions of doses — perhaps a reference to Bayer’s recent announcement that it would donate three million tablets of the drug to the American government.

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Fauci — a renowned infectious disease researcher who has served as NIAID director since 1984 — acknowledged the drug was unlikely to cause harmful side effects when used in an effort to treat or prevent coronavirus. Some anecdotal evidence has shown the drug may be effective at reducing the severity of coronavirus symptoms, but experts have stressed that researchers should conduct larger trials before making any determinations about rolling out chloroquine for more widespread use.

“What I’m saying is that it might be effective,” Fauci said. But medical professionals’ aim, he said, should focus on “collecting data that will ultimately show that it is truly effective and safe under the conditions of Covid-19.”

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Trump’s comments are a startling departure from the norm for scientists and officials at agencies across the federal government, including the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, which follow strict legal and ethical standards for approving new medicines and approving existing ones to treat new diseases.

The remarks also come the day after a press conference during which Trump dramatically oversold a separate drug that could potentially be used to treat coronavirus. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, repeatedly walked back Trump’s statements, stressing that the agency was following its typical protocols for ensuring the safety of existing drugs and approving new ones.

When a reporter asked Trump on Friday whether he was selling Americans on an overly optimistic message regarding forthcoming coronavirus treatments, Trump told him: “I say you’re a terrible reporter.”

Throughout the briefing, Fauci attempted to balance his scientific approach with Trump’s self-acknowledged instincts on the use of antimalarial drugs to treat a novel virus and the respiratory disease it causes, known as Covid-19.

“It’s the hope that it will work, versus proving that it will work,” Fauci said. “So I don’t see big differences here.”

  • A friend is chief of staff at an infectious disease hospital in Vietnam and say they have successfully treat cases of coronavirus with the combination of hydrochloroquine and azithromycin.

    • That is why I say that many publications including STAT are somewhat political.

      There is no room for that and the editors here need to become more objective re what articles they publish.

      It was not right to mock Trump for being optimistic about that medicine cocktail and to claim that he was acting like a cook adjusting the seasoning in spaghetti but that was the post of one particular ignorant poster here.

      When you do not have a cure you try things that might work and that has promise for some patients it seems.

  • Sorry about the misread chef comment criticism and thanks for your compliment Sigmund. There is only so many bananas you an eat every day. Hope you also like to drink orange juice and broccoli too! Try to cut down on your diuretics as well! If you cardiologist insists, you might try to ask him to reduce furosemide and switch partially to spironolactone, which is a potassium sparing diuretic.

  • Sigmund,

    With all due respect, I strenuously object yo your ridiculous comparison wquatinging a mere chef to a clinical research scientist . While the latter has the potential of contributing to a cure that may save thousands of lives, when was the last time a chef saved any life?

    • You must have your posts confused. I have never commented on a chef. But I have commented on a post that did just that. And that post made the same point that you are making.

      It gets confusing but you really have no one to blast as I don’t think anyone here has posted that a chef is likely to find a cure for COVID-19 but that is always possible. The lady in question was comparing Trump to a cook and saying that his hunch was much like a cook experimenting with different seasonings. Her comment IMO was not valid as there have been uses of the medication in question with reports of success but they were not thorough studies.

      At any rate it was not my post and again I don’t think anyone here was suggesting that we need to recruit more chefs.

    • Actually, as I read it, Sigmund wasn’t calling for more chefs, but he was suggesting we adopt a different strategy in medical research that looks a lot more like cooking:

      Sigmund’s words:
      “Double blind studies are the gold standard but are not the only way to determine effectiveness. We do that all the time. Cooks try things and if the results are good they retry it and if it works consistently they conclude it works.”

      My response…(which had nothing to do with Trump):
      “Seriously? You’re comparing testing drug efficacy and contraindications with experimenting with how much garlic salt and basil you put in spaghetti sauce?!?”

  • Patricia and Sigmund,

    Actually the first sign and immediate symptoms of Potassium deficiency is leg cramps.

    • I do not doubt that but there are other symptoms of potassium deficiency.

      https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/potassium-deficiency-symptoms

      I am not sure which comes first but the heart just happens to be of most concern to me right now. That is why my potassium was recently tested
      but is within so-called normal limits but I do get leg cramps so perhaps I need to have more potassium so thank you.

      I love bananas and actually we have some growing in our living room. Every year or two they provide a small number of quite small fruit. Then they die but before they do they send out runners so we have new banana trees. They do better in the winter when the sun angle is lower. I think they would prefer more humidity but humidity is not what you find where I live.

  • As a result of this,
    Chloroquine ( plaquenil) isn’t available to those of us who need it to help control lupus. ‘Out of stock here in Switzerland and abroad, ‘ I was told today. Having been seriously ill with kidney failure due to lupus, I take a variety of medication to stay well. If this drug hasn’t been proved to help Coronavirus why have Bayer given it all away? I take immune suppressors as well so I’m already isolated and at risk.
    Has anyone thought through the consequences of running out of this medication for those who need it?

    • It doesn’t appear that anyone is thinking through the consequences of any of these decisions.

  • “It’s the hope that it will work, versus proving that it will work,” Fauci said. “So I don’t see big differences here.”

    I think that is the key statement and there is nothing wrong with what Fauci said. Trump is hoping against hope that useful treatments will be foud and Fauci is warning about getting over excited.

    But I think Trump has something to contribute by urging that what appears to have some potential is pushed ahead as quickly as possible.

    Double blind studies are the gold standard but are not the only way to determine effectiveness. We do that all the time. Cooks try things and if the results are good they retry it and if it works consistently they conclude it works.

    It may not have the same statistical capability as a double blind study but that does not mean it should not be used.

    In way rarely is there a double blind study of weapons or tactics. You try things and what seems to work you use.

    Fauci is responsible for the screw up in getting the test kits out. It was his desk where the buck was supposed to stop. But I would not fire him. Now it the time for everyone to try to work together.

    • Seriously? You’re comparing testing drug efficacy and contraindications with experiment with how much garlic salt and basil you put in spaghetti sauce?!?
      OK. Let your spouse, parent, or child get infected. They’re headed for the ICU. It’s a life or death situation. Give them the best-known treatment, or let them be the guinea pig for something President Trump (but not the scientists) feel “optimistic” about.

    • Lisa what makes you think there are not scientists who conclude that the drugs Trump has mentioned might work? These drugs are being used and there are reports that they have worked.

      It is what is called anecdotal evidence rather than the result of full scale controlled trials.

      I certainly would want to take them if I was in that situation.

      You let your politics comprise your intellect.

      There is no best-known treatment, unfortunately. Do some more reading.

    • This is not political, it’s simply this: Doctors and epidemiologists should be out in front making the recommendations. Let them do their jobs. Trump contradicts himself and them and continues to demonstrate he has little use for facts or experts.

      If you want to try it 👍👍.
      Would it be amazing to have a generic drug work? Absolutely.

      What I’ve read is most of the evidence is in-vitro (not in the body), with China publishing results of an uncontrolled study of 100 patients. (I do not think the paper has been peer-reviewed yet.) It doesn’t appear that the French doctor who’s pushing chloroquine has used it in patients…he just fast-tracked a paper reviewing other anecdotal evidence. (Not yet peer-reviewed.) Most of the other people jumping on the band-wagon (e.g. Silicon Valley) are not medical experts. Sometimes this comes up with unique solutions. And sometimes the “cure” causes more issues than the disease.

      I know what anecdotal research is. I know what well-controlled studies are. I’ve conducted both types. I also know there are appropriate situations for each. My family includes medical practitioners and I wrote medical software for several years.

      Thanks for the kind advice to read more, though. 🤔

  • Thanks and amen to you Martin Wong! DO something about it? How about tweeting Trump and request him to demand immediate resignation of Tony Fauci and Stephen Hahn to REMOVE those blind and ivory-tower resident obstructionists?

  • Normally I don’t like to get involved in such public discussions…but I want to thank you for showing both sides of the equation.

    I think personally Fauci is blanketing while the rest of the world is moving ahead with antiviral solutions which is the only hope we have at the moment. If hydroxychloroquine is proven to be prophylactic with malaria and it’s widely and cheaply available that’s a huge incentive to implement it immediately so that we can all get back to living, among other things. Upside v downside.

    If you consult the EU’s coronavirus website you’ll see (what people already know) the risks are low for people under about 75-80. Everyone has their reasons for still being worried. (Panicking, and acting irrationally).
    What Americans mostly don’t know is why the elderly are dying. They intuitively understand that people who end up in ICU already have systems that are highly compromised. But they forget this, because they aren’t thinking clearly. those who are are concerned with other things such as helping others and taking steps to prepare themselves for what will occur when they get exposed to the virus.

    One final note — a French doctor declared that hydroxycholoroquine combined with azithromycin was ‘very effective at removing the virus from the upper respiratory system’. It’s another indicator that the entire american approach to developing solutions is too conservative, too cautious, not rational, not progressive enough, too slow (!) and….behind the rest of the world. Maybe we can do something about THAT! THANKS FOR LISTENING I’m praying. Have a nice day.

    • Absolutely. What hasn’t been well-publicized is the red tape at FDA slowed down testing. Their glacial drug approval process has been known and written about for years. They’ve sped it up somewhat but when people are dying right now and the FDA says it isn’t safe to take XYZ, well they’re going to be dead for crying out loud. What is more unsafe than twiddling your thumbs while Rome burns?

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