WH doctor: 'Potential benefit' of Trump taking hydroxychloroquine 'outweighed' risks

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests some states may 'pay nothing' as part of unemployment plan Trump denies White House asked about adding him to Mount Rushmore Trump, US face pivotal UN vote on Iran MORE's physician on Monday confirmed that the president is now taking the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine despite not having the coronavirus, saying he and Trump concluded "the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks."

In a 114-word letter released by the White House hours after Trump announced he was taking the medication, presidential physician Sean Conley wrote that he discussed the pros and cons of taking the drug with Trump after one of his personal valets tested positive for the coronavirus.

But the letter contained no specifics on when Trump started taking the drug or what his dosage is.

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"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," Conley wrote.

Trump told reporters earlier Monday he had started taking the controversial drug, which he has championed as a potential treatment for coronavirus despite limited evidence from the medical community.

The president said he consulted with the White House doctor about taking hydroxychloroquine, but it was not explicitly recommended for him since he has not tested positive for the virus.

"I asked him what do you think," Trump said. "He said, 'Well, if you’d like it.' I said, 'Yeah, I’d like it. I’d like to take it.' "

He said he's been taking the drug for about a week-and-a-half along with a zinc supplement, adding he based his decision on positive reviews he's heard from front-line health care workers who have had good results treating patients with it.

"Here’s my evidence: I get a lot of positive calls about it," Trump said.

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"So far, I seem to be OK," he added.

The decision drew swift skepticism and some condemnation given the drug remains largely unproven and in some cases dangerous. The pill is typically taken as an anti-malaria drug or to treat lupus, and there is scant evidence it can prevent the onset of coronavirus.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning last month that hydroxychloroquine should not be taken outside a hospital or clinical trial because of the risk of severe heart problems.

The drug showed no benefit for patients in an analysis of those hospitalized in Veterans Health Administration medical centers. The study, released last month, found the two primary outcomes for COVID-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine were death and the need for mechanical ventilation. 

The president spent weeks in March and April touting hydroxychloroquine as a potential panacea to the coronavirus, despite limited evidence to suggest it is effective in a clinical setting. 

Trump repeatedly argued that patients had “nothing to lose” by taking the drug and even suggested they take it proactively.