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President Trump on Wednesday afternoon said he will finish his treatment of hydroxychloroquine in “about two days” -- just days after he announced that he was taking the antimalarial drug as a preventative against the novel coronavirus.
If Trump finishes his treatment of hydroxychloroquine on Friday, it would mark 14 days from the time that Vice President Mike Pence’s Press Secretary Katie Miller tested positive for COVID-19.
Trump first announced on Monday that he was taking the antimalarial drug, adding that he consulted with the White House physician before starting the treatment.
Dr. Sean Conley, the president's physician, said in a statement Monday night: "After numerous discussions he and I had about regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks."
Hydroxychloroquine is a widely used antimalarial drug that the president has touted as a possible treatment for COVID-19.
But its effectiveness for treating coronavirus has been a subject of debate: A recent analysis of the use of the drug to treat COVID-19 patients in U.S. veterans’ hospitals found no benefit to using the drug and that there were more deaths among those given hydroxychloroquine versus standard care.
The nationwide study, which was released last month, was not a rigorous experiment. And Trump has continued to defend the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat the novel coronavirus and slammed the demoted government scientist who filed a whistleblower complaint claiming he was removed from his post for disagreeing with the Trump administration’s push to use the drug.
Two large observational studies, each involving around 1,400 patients in New York, however, also recently found no benefit from the drug. Two new studies published Thursday in the medical journal BMJ reached the same conclusion.
The antimalaria drug hydroxychloroquine can cause heart rhythm problems and other side effects. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said hydroxychloroquine should only be used to treat coronavirus in formal studies.
After Trump on Monday made his comments that he was taking hydroxychloroquine, many doctors urged Americans that their best sources for medical information are medical experts, not the president.
"You have to have a discussion with your doctor to decide if it is best for you," Dr. Janette Nesheiwat, a Fox News medical contributor, warned. "It is not going to be good for everyone but it may be beneficial and potentially life-saving for others."
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases specialist at the Vanderbilt Medical Center, went a step further. "I certainly would not recommend that people in the U.S. ask their physicians to prescribe hydroxychloroquine for the prevention of COVID," Schaffner told The Wall Street Journal. "Its use is entirely speculative."
Trump has in the past argued that individuals will have to make up their own minds about taking the drug, but he claimed "it doesn't hurt people."
"It's been out in the market for 60 years or 65 years for malaria, lupus and other things. I think it gives you an additional level of safety," Trump has said. There is currently no scientific evidence to back that claim.
Fox News’ Marisa Schultz and Bradford Betz contributed to this report.