“We’re Going to Pray From God That This Does Work”: Trump Keeps Promoting Unproven Drugs

The cocktail carries significant risks and may not fight the coronavirus.

Tasos Katopodis/Getty

The coronavirus is a rapidly developing news story, so some of the content in this article might be out of date. Check out our most recent coverage of the coronavirus crisis, and subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

On Saturday afternoon, President Trump again used the platform of a White House coronavirus briefing to push two unproven drugs as a treatment, feeding into a swirl of medical misinformation and increasing the distance between his ad-hoc views and those of his scientist advisers.

When asked about the anti-malaria drug chloroquine as a possible coronavirus cure, Trump said it, along with the antibiotic azithromycin, could work and suggested they would be shared widely with patients.

“It’s going to be distributed. I think New York is getting 10,000 units,” he said. “We’re going to find out. As the expression goes, ‘What do we have to lose?'”

Trump promoted the drugs at Friday’s briefing and earlier on Saturday morning on Twitter, despite the fact that the Food and Drug Administration has not approved either drug to treat COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. There’s good reason for that. Despite some positive reports stemming from studies with small samples, the untested drug cocktail carries significant risks. As I reported this morning:

When used in conjunction with other medication or in the wrong dosage, taking them can be devastating. In China, officials recommended the use of chloroquine in February after some promising trials, but after a researchers in Wuhan discovered that doubling a daily dose of the drug could lead to death, China quickly “cautioned doctors and health officials about the drug’s lethal side effects and rolled back its usage,” Bloomberg reported. The AFP wire service has reported that social media messages pushing chloroquine have circulated widely in Nigeria, and that health officials there have seen cases of poisoning from the drug. 

Trump seemed unconcerned with these inconvenient details. “This would be a gift from heaven, this would be a gift from God if it works,” he said. “So we’re going to pray from God that it does work.”

When pressed by a reporter about the wisdom of Trump pushing an unverified solution, Vice President Mike Pence said, “There is some anecdotal evidence that several existing medicines may have brought relief to patients struggling in China and Europe.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, used that same word—”anecdotal”—to describe the case for a prescription that Trump, only hours prior to briefing, insisted should be “put in use IMMEDIATELY.” 

“The president is talking about hope for people and it’s not an unreasonable thing to hope for people,” Fauci said. “My job as a scientist is to ultimately prove without a doubt that a drug is not only safe but works.”

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.