Media heads explode after Trump reveals he's taking hydroxychloroquine
President Trump reignited the media firestorm over his endorsement of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a prophylactic against and treatment for coronavirus, revealing in response to question that he is currently taking the drug and has been doing so for about two weeks.
To my eyes, he appeared to relish the bewilderment and outrage that immediately started brewing among the media facing him. Watch all four minutes for yourself:
I happened to be watching Neil Cavuto's Fox News show when the program cut away to President Trump answering reporters' questions following his meeting with restaurant industry executives, and so I had the experience of watching a NeverTrump go low immediately after the questions ended. Via Breitbart:
"A number of studies, those certainly vulnerable in the population have one thing to lose, their lives," Cavuto said on his program following President Trump's announcement. "A VA study showed that among a population of veterans in a hospital receiving this treatment, those with vulnerable conditions, respiratory conditions, heart elements, they died."
"Those who took it, in a vulnerable population, including those with respiratory or other conditions, they died," the Fox Business Network host continued. "I want to stress again — they died. If you are in a risky population here and you are taking this as a preventative treatment to ward off the virus or, in a worst-case scenario, you are dealing with the virus, and you are in this vulnerable population, it will kill you. I cannot stress that enough. This will kill you."
"So again, whatever benefit the president says this has — and certainly has had for those suffering from malaria, dealing with lupus — this is a leap that should not be taken casually by those watching at home or assuming, 'well, the President of the United States says it's okay,'" he added.
My friend Mike Nadler, who happened to watching, too, was so outraged that he fired off an email to Cavuto refuting him, which I share with permission:
I'm whipping this together quickly because I was quite distressed about the dismissal of hydroxychlooquine by the doctor you had on your show today after President Trump revealed that he is taking it, along with zinc, prophylactically. You cited the deaths in the report released last month of the VA study. Here is some information you should be aware of about that study, and more.
The VA study by Magagnoli et al., which was posted on April 23, 2020 as a non-peer reviewed preprint, studied 368 patients of which 210 were treated with hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) or HCQ plus azithromycin (AZ). The study points to an association of HCQ with increased mortality but implicitly acknowledges its limitations as a retrospective study by concluding, in part:
"In this study, we found no evidence that use of hydroxychloroquine, either with or without azithromycin, reduced the risk of mechanical ventilation in patients hospitalized with Covid-19. An association of increased overall mortality was identified in patients treated with hydroxychloroquine alone. These findings highlight the importance of awaiting the results of ongoing prospective, randomized, controlled studies before widespread adoption of these drugs."
But the key finding of an association of HCQ with higher fatality rates appears to be totally bogus. Three weeks ago, I circulated this devastating 2-page critique of the Magagnoli VA study by the renowned French infectious disease expert Didier Raoult et al. The critique identified "3 voluntary biases…all pushing to the idea of dangerosity of hydroxychloroquine" in the VA study including "two major biases," one being that the finding of higher fatality rate for patients receiving HCQ is due to their being initially much sicker with lymphopenia than those who did not receive HCQ.
The critique starts off, "In the current period, it seems that passion dominates rigorous and balanced scientific analysis and may lead to scientific misconduct. The article by Magagnoli et al. (Magagnoli, 2020) is an absolutely spectacular example of this." It ends with: "All in all, this is a work that shows that, in this period, it is possible to propose things that do not stand up to any methodological analysis to try to demonstrate that one is right." I have not read of anyone trying to refute the points in this critique.
On May 5, 2020, the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease (the official journal of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and the Latin American Society for Travel Medicine) published the results of Didier and his colleagues own retrospective study of 1,061 Covid-19 patients treated with HCQ and azithromycin. It concluded, "Administration of the HCQ+AZ combination before COVID-19 complications occur is safe and associated with very low fatality rate in patients."
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Links to a few other articles on the subject are linked below:
Michael R. Nadler, Ph.D.
President Trump also took exception to Cavuto's treatment:
Of course, Fox News was the least of it when it came to outraged (and outrageous) reactions. Via NewsBusters:
Even though the FDA says the use of Hydroxychloroquine was up to a patient and their doctor, Monday's evening newscasts saw ABC, CBS, and NBC clutch their pearls after President Trump admitted he's been taking the anti-Malaria drug for several days to prevent catching coronavirus. Acting as though he was self-medicating and not telling viewers that the drug needed a prescription to obtain it, which meant his doctor approved it, these liberal networks decried the medial precaution.
ABC's World News Tonight and the CBS Evening News kicked off their newscasts with the headline stealing development. "But, of course, the headline that immediately took over all the others, when late today, the President said he's been taking hydroxychloroquine for more than a week," announced ABC anchor David Muir. He added: "But, of course, it led to immediate questions about why he's taking it, with the FDA warning that no one should be taking the drug for coronavirus outside a hospital or clinical trial."
Reporting on how the President said he had spoken with the White House physician before he started taking the drug, ABC chief White House correspondent Jon Karl didn't mention that it needed a prescription (click "expand"):
KARL: Did the White House doctor recommend that you that? Is that why you're taking it?
TRUMP: Yeah, White House doctor. Didn't recommend. No, I asked him, "what do you think" and he said, "well, if you'd like it." I said, "yeah, I'd like it. I'd like to take it." A lot of people are taking it.
KARL: The President, who regularly gets tested for coronavirus, said he is taking the drug as a preventive, not because he has tested positive or has any symptoms.
Spanish-language network Telemundo went full fake news and declared via an on-screen headline that read "TRUMP SELF MEDICATES." The network apparently didn't understand what self mediation was. Anchor Jose Diaz-Balart looked to correspondent Javier Vega and asked: "Do we know why the president decided to self-medicate with this drug?" And Vega responded by admitting "because his doctor prescribed it."
President Trump's physician released a statement on why the POTUS is taking HCQ:
As has been previously reported, two weeks ago one of the President's support staff tested positive for COVID-19. The President is in very good health and has remained symptom-free. He receives regular COVID-19 testing, all negative to date.
After numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks.
In consultation with our inter-agency partners and subject matter experts around the country, I continue to monitor the myriad studies investigating potential COVID-19 therapies, and I anticipate employing the same shared medical decision making based on the evidence at hand in the future.
The most bizarre reaction came from Fredo Cuomo, suggesting a hoax:
But there were plenty of physicians, who had not examined or treated Trump, who expressed outrage, including on Fox.
President Trump obviously thinks that at least until something better comes along, many months in the future, HCQ is a valuable tool in fighting this plague. Like all medications, including aspirin, it has its risks. I can tell you this: if I were to contract the Wuhan Virus, my first step would be to consult my physician to get a prescription for HCQ, and I think I am in a large majority of Americans.
Photo credit: YouTube screen grab.