Reuters Published a Startling New Report About Trump Pushing Anti-Malaria Drugs

Yuri Gripas/CNP via ZUMA Wire

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For weeks, President Donald Trump has been pushing two anti-malaria drugs—chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine—as treatment for the novel coronavirus, despite a lack of scientific evidence that they, well, actually work to treat the novel coronavirus. Now Reuters has published a report that highlights how the president intervened to pressure federal health officials last month to put out a little-noticed but “highly unusual guidance informing doctors they had the option to prescribe the drugs, with key dosing information based on unattributed anecdotes rather than peer-reviewed science.”

As the story notes:

The episode reveals how the president’s efforts could change the nature of drug oversight, a field long governed by strict rules of science and testing. Rarely, if ever, has a U.S. president lobbied regulators and health officials to focus their efforts on specific unproven drugs.

“The president is short-circuiting the process with his gut feelings,” said Jeffrey Flier, a former dean of Harvard Medical School. “We are in an emergency and we need to rely on our government to ensure that all these potential therapies are tested in the most effective and objective way.”

The CDC guidance, Reuters notes, was essentially published without any sourcing. That is alarming! Experts agree:

Dr. Lynn Goldman, dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, says she was surprised to read the document guidance, after Reuters pointed it out to her. “Geez!” she said. “No references, no nothing! Why would CDC be publishing anecdotes? That doesn’t make sense. This is very unusual.”

Flier, the former Harvard dean, agreed. “It’s kind of offering these drugs up and suggesting that doctors might prescribe them when it’s obviously not established whether or not they are effective or harmful,” he said.

Just last night, Trump (again) spent a significant chunk of his press briefing encouraging Americans to take the drugs:

The story of how the guidance came to be is unsettling, somewhat complicated, and, unfortunately, given that it includes something the president saw on Fox News, not all that surprising. Read the full story here.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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