In March, Donald Trump took to the podium during his daily briefings to endorse chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as possible miracle drugs to treat COVID-19.
“What do you have to lose,” Trump said cavalierly about the drugs that are often used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus, among other diseases, but that have not been thoroughly tested as efficacious in treating COVID-19.
On Tuesday, CNN anchor Don Lemon ripped into Trump’s tepid response in light of news from a new study that there was a higher death rate for patients with COVID-19 who were given the experimental chloroquine than those who did not take the drug.
The study examined the use of chloroquine to treat patients with COVID-19 in veterans’ hospitals throughout the United States. Researchers who studied 368 patients, a relatively small sampling but the largest done to date on the effects of chloroquine, found that “there were more deaths among those given hydroxychloroquine versus standard care,” according to the Associated Press.
When Trump was grilled about having pushed the drug without proper testing, he responded, “Obviously there have been some very good reports, and perhaps this one is not a good report, but we’ll be looking at it.”
During his CNN show, Lemon laid into Trump’s irresponsibility in pushing an untested drug and then failing to take responsibility.
“He says he doesn’t know anything about that report, that patients that took the drug had higher death rates than those who didn’t — the drug he promoted over and over and over,” Lemon said. “The president just says that he’s going to take a look. That’s not good enough. He’s got a responsibility to take this seriously.”
“He promoted a totally unproven drug again and again, telling Americans desperate to do something, anything to save their lives,” Lemon added.
"It's not going to hurt people," Trump told the American public just two weeks ago, according to Business Insider. “It can help them, but it's not going to hurt them. That's the beauty of it. You see? It can help them, but it's not going to hurt them. What do you have to lose? OK."
In fact, Trump went as far as to say that the drug would not kill people, which the study conducted at veterans’ hospitals would appear to disprove.
"It doesn't kill people. We don't have time to go and say, gee, let's take a couple of years and test it out,” Trump said.
Trump also took to his favorite platform, Twitter, to push the drug in concert with a popular antibiotic.
“HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine,” Trump tweeted.
Trump’s touting of the malaria drug came even after scientists in Brazil halted testing the drug after one-quarter of those who were given the drug developed heart rhythm problems. He also ignored the National Institutes of Health’s warning that there was not significant evidence to recommend using the drug while it warned against using chloroquine in tandem with the popular antibiotic azithromycin due to adverse side effects.
“'What have you got to lose' he said,” Lemon repeated on his show. “Now he’s doing the ‘I barely know the guy’ routine with the drug that he said would be the game-changer and a gift from heaven.”
Watch Lemon tear into Trump’s mishandling of the chloroquine narrative.