Coronavirus: Trump says it’s ‘just a feeling’, snaps at journalist for questioning unproven malaria drug
Contradicting an expert in the coronavirus task force, who said there is no “magic drug", Trump said “I disagree. Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. We have to see. We’re going to know soon”
US President Donald Trump -- who hyped an anti-malaria drug as a potential therapy against coronavirus that has not been approved -- admitted that his enthusiasm and faith in the unproven drug was based on “just a feeling.”
The drug in question is hydroxychloroquine. During a briefing on March 19, Trump said two drugs -- remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine -- could be game-changers. “It (hydroxychloroquine) is known as a malaria drug, and it’s been around for a long time and it’s very powerful. But the nice part is, it’s been around for a long time, so we know that if it — if things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody,” said Trump on March 19.
During a briefing on March 20, Trump was again questioned regarding the drug hydroxychloroquine. “The advantage is that it has been prescribed for a totally different problem, but it has been described for many years. Everybody knows the levels of the negatives and the positives. But, I will say that I am a man that comes from a very positive school when it comes to, in particular, one of these drugs,” Trump told the media.
“We’ll see how it works out. I’m not saying it will, but I think that people may be surprised. By the way, that would be a game-changer. We’re going to know very soon. We have ordered millions of units. It’s being ordered from Bayer, and there is another couple of companies also that do it."
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hydroxychloroquine is an arthritis medicine that also can be used to prevent malaria. It is available in the US by prescription only. However, no drugs or vaccine have yet been approved for COVID-19. So far, over 19,620 cases have been reported from across the US, and 260 have died.
When a journalist reminded Trump that Dr. Anthony S Fauci, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director, has said that currently, there is no “magic drug” for COVID-19, Trump replied, “I think we only disagree a little bit.”
“I disagree. Maybe and maybe not. Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. We have to see. We’re going to know soon,” he said.
Trump added, “Look, it may work, and it may not work. I agree with the doctor, what he said. May work, may not work. I feel good about it. That’s all it is. Just a feeling. I’m a smart guy. I feel good about it. We’re going to see.”
The president then went on to say that currently, in terms of malaria, if a person has a prescription, they can get the drug. And then he again reiterated, “I have a feeling you may … I’m not being overly optimistic or pessimistic. I sure as hell think we ought to give it a try. There’s been some interesting things (that) happened, and some very good things. Let’s see what happens. We have nothing to lose. You know the expression? What the hell do you have to lose?”
Trump’s "feeling" had already been answered with science earlier by Dr. Fauci -- who is part of the coronavirus task force -- during the briefing.
When a journalist questioned Dr. Fauci if there is any evidence to suggest that, as with malaria, it might be used as a prophylaxis against COVID-19, the experts replied in the negative. “No. The answer is no. The evidence that you’re talking about is anecdotal evidence. As the commissioner of FDA and the president mentioned yesterday, we’re trying to strike a balance between making something with a potential of an effect to the American people available at the same time that we do it under the auspices of a protocol that would give us information to determine if it’s truly safe and truly effective,” said Dr. Fauci.
He added, "But, the information that you’re referring to specifically is anecdotal. It was not done in a controlled clinical trial, so you really can’t make any definitive statement about it.”
When a journalist asked Trump if it is possible that his “impulse to put a positive spin on things may be giving Americans a false sense of hope and misrepresenting our preparedness right now”, Trump retorted, “No, I don’t think so.”
When the reporter further asked, “What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?”, Trump got angry and replied, “I say that you’re a terrible reporter. That’s what I say.”
“I think it’s a very nasty question, and I think it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people. The American people are looking for answers and they’re looking for hope, and you’re doing sensationalism,” said an angry Trump.
He added, “Let me just tell you something. That’s really bad reporting, and you ought to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism. Let’s see if it works. It might and it might not. I happen to feel good about it, but who knows? I’ve been right a lot. Let’s see what happens.”
Later, during the briefing, Dr. Fauci tried to balance Trump’s feelings with science. “As a scientist, as we’re getting it out there, we need to do it in a way as, while we are making it available for people who might want the hope that it might work, you’re also collecting data that will ultimately show that it is truly effective and safe under the conditions of COVID-19,” he said.
Dr. Fauci added, “What we don’t know is when you put it in the context of another disease, whether it’s safe. Fundamentally I think it probably is going to be safe, but I like to prove things first. So it really is a question of not a lot of difference. It’s the hope that it will work versus proving that it will work. So I don’t see big differences here.”