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Cordelia Lynch: President Trump defends hydroxychloroquine as COVID-19 treatment

Early Edition with Kate Hawkesby

President Donald Trump issued a stout defense Tuesday of a disproved use of a malaria drug as a treatment for the coronavirus, hours after social media companies moved to take down videos promoting its use as potentially harmful misinformation.
The president, in a marked shift from the more measured approach he’s taken toward the virus in recent days, took to Twitter to promote hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and to amplify criticism of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert. In a White House briefing, Trump defended his decision to promote a viral video of a group of doctors promoting the use of the drug Monday, even though his own administration withdrew emergency authorization for its use against the coronavirus.
“I think they’re very respected doctors," Trump said, adding they believed in the drug. "There was a woman who was spectacular in her statements about it.” The doctors, members of a group called America’s Frontline Doctors, took part in an event organized by Tea Party Patriots Action, a dark money group that has helped fund a pro-Trump political action committee.
Scientific studies have shown hydroxychloroquine can do more harm than good when used to treat symptoms of COVID-19.
Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., and others shared video of the event on Facebook and Twitter, prompting both companies to step in and remove the content as part of an aggressive push to keep the sites free of potentially harmful information about the virus — though not before more than 17 million people had seen one version of the video circulating on the web.
The decision to remove the videos sparked conservative claims of “censorship,” with Simone Gold, one of the doctors, tweeting that “there are always opposing views in medicine.”
“Treatment options for COVID-19 should be debated, and spoken about among our colleagues in the medical field,” she wrote. “They should never, however, be censored and silenced.”
Others stressed the differences between medical opinion and peer-reviewed scientific studies.
Many high-quality studies have found no evidence that hydroxychloroquine, when used with or without the antibiotic azithromycin, as touted many times by Trump, helps treat coronavirus infection or prevent serious disease from it. They include studies commissioned by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization and universities in the U.S. and around the world.
Because of the lack of benefit and the risks of serious side effects such as heart rhythm problems, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently revoked its brief authorization of emergency use of the drug for COVID-19. NIH treatment guidelines also specifically recommend against hydroxychloroquine’s use, except in formal studies.
In addition to sharing the video, Trump retweeted several tweets that attacked the credibility of Fauci, a leading member of the White House coronavirus task force.
Later, Trump appeared to back away from his criticism of Fauci, saying, “I get along with him very well" and even appearing envious of his widespread approval rating.
“He’s got a very good approval rating, and I like that," Trump said, adding that Fauci and White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx work for him, “And yet they’re highly thought of but nobody likes me.”
Fauci has become an off-and-on target of Trump and some of his White House aides and outside allies, who disagreed with the doctor's early recommendation to shut down the economy as a way to slow the virus, which is surging again in parts of the country, mostly in the South and West.
Trump, in recent interviews, has described Fauci as “a bit of an alarmist” and accused him of making “mistakes” in his coronavirus guidance. But Trump also says he gets along with the longtime head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Fauci said Tuesday that he'll deal with the attacks by keeping his he...
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