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President Donald Trump spent much of his time at the coronavirus news briefing on Sunday once again promoting unproven drugs to treat COVID-19. “And another thing we have bought a tremendous amount of is hydroxychloroquine,” Trump said. “We have stockpiled 29 million pills of the hydroxychloroquine. 29 million. A lot of drugstores have them, by prescription. And they’re not expensive.” The commander in chief also peddled azithromycin, almost urging Americans to take the drugs. “What do you have to lose?” Trump asked. “What do I know? I’m not a doctor. I’m not a doctor. But I have common sense.”
Although Trump has been pushing hydroxychloroquine for a while, he seems to have taken those recommendations further this weekend. On Saturday, Trump had pretty much called on sick patients to take the drug. “What do you have to lose? Take it,” the president said. “I really think they should take it. But it’s their choice. And it’s their doctor’s choice or the doctors in the hospital. But hydroxychloroquine. Try it, if you’d like.”
Trump made the strong endorsement of hydroxychloroquine hours after Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a key member of the coronavirus task force, had warned there was no evidence to support the use of hydroxychloroquine. “In terms of science, I don’t think we can definitively say it works,” he told CBS’s Face the Nation. “The data are really just at best suggestive. There have been cases that show there may be an effect and there are others to show there’s no effect.”
When a reporter asked Fauci at Sunday’s news briefing about the drug, Trump interrupted him and prevented Fauci from answering.
The issue has become highly controversial inside the task force and was the subject of a heated discussion between Fauci and Peter Navarro, a White House economic adviser. The confrontation between the two officials on Saturday marked the “biggest fight yet” within the task force, reports Axios. As Navarro touted the use of hydroxychloroquine, Fauci insisted there was only anecdotal evidence to support its use. That apparently “just set Peter off,” one of the sources told Axios. It was then reportedly up to Vice President Mike Pence and Jared Kushner to try to calm things down.
For more on the impact of the coronavirus, listen to Monday’s What Next.