Vice President Pence said Tuesday that he isn’t taking hydroxychloroquine, a drug touted by President Trump as a potential treatment for the novel coronavirus despite safety concerns.

“My physician hasn’t recommended that, but I wouldn’t hesitate to take the counsel of my doctor. Any American should do likewise,” Pence told Fox News’s Kristin Fisher in an interview following a trip to NASA headquarters

Pence’s remarks came a day after Trump revealed he has been taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure against the coronavirus. There is limited evidence that the drug, used to treat malaria and lupus, is effective at treating patients with COVID-19, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned against the use of the drug outside hospital settings due to potential heart problems. 

Asked during the Fox interview if he had concerns about the message Trump’s use of the drug sends, Pence noted that the FDA approved the off-label use of the drug so physicians could prescribe it if they deemed it appropriate. He also pointed to anecdotes suggesting the drug had benefits.

“I’ve heard anecdotal stories of Americans who’ve taken hydroxychloroquine in the midst of the coronavirus and sense that it made a real difference for them,” Pence said. “I think this is a time when … we wanted to make sure that every American and their doctors had a full access to the broadest range of remedies and medicines and, and that was why the FDA made that approval early on.”

Trump told reporters Monday he had been taking the drug for roughly a week and a half with a zinc supplement after consulting with the White House doctor. He said he made the decision after hearing positive reviews of the drug from doctors.

“I’ve received a lot of positive letters and it seems to have an impact. And maybe it does; maybe it doesn’t. But if it doesn’t, you’re not going to get sick or die,” Trump told reporters. 

A study of patients at Veterans Health Administration facilities released last month suggested the drug was ineffective in treating patients with COVID-19 and found that the two primary outcomes for patients treated with the drug were the need for mechanical ventilation and death.

The White House released a memo Monday evening from physician Sean Conley saying he and Trump discussed the use of hydroxychloroquine and determined “the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks.”

It did not include specifics about the president’s dosage and noted that Trump continues to test negative for the coronavirus and remains symptom-free.

“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. 

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Tuesday urged Americans to consult with a doctor before taking the drug during an interview on “Fox & Friends.”

“Any use of hydroxychloroquine has to be in consultation with your doctor. You have to have a prescription. That’s the way it must be done,” McEnany said.

McEnany also said she didn’t have any information about Trump’s “exact rationale” for taking the drug but noted his consultations with the White House physician. 

—Updated at 4:19 p.m.

Tags Coronavirus Donald Trump Hydroxychloroquine Mike Pence
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