Prescriptions for Trump-promoted anti-malarial drugs jumped 46-fold before testing had been completed: report
Doctor with pills (Shutterstock)

On Saturday, The New York Times reported that prescription rates for the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine spiked dramatically after President Donald Trump praised it on TV.

"It was at a midday briefing last month that President Trump first used the White House telecast to promote two antimalarial drugs in the fight against the coronavirus," reported Ellen Gabler and Michael H. Keller. "'I think it could be something really incredible,' Mr. Trump said on March 19, noting that while more study was needed, the two drugs had shown 'very, very encouraging results' in treating the virus."

"By that evening, first-time prescriptions of the drugs — chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine — poured into retail pharmacies at more than 46 times the rate of the average weekday, according to an analysis of prescription data by The New York Times," continued the report. "And the nearly 32,000 prescriptions came from across the spectrum — rheumatologists, cardiologists, dermatologists, psychiatrists and even podiatrists, the data shows."

There remains no solid evidence that hydroxychloroquine improves the health outcomes of patients with COVID-19. Indeed, recent studies have suggested it leads to a higher death rate, and some tests had to be aborted because of its catastrophic side effects including cardiac arrythmia. Meanwhile, lupus patients, who also rely on the drug to suppress their immune system, have faced critical shortages.

In recent days, the president has been far more muted on the subject of hydroxychloroquine as new studies have come in casting doubt on its use in COVID-19 cases.