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President Donald Trump and I have something in common: we both take the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine.

In my case, it’s to treat the immune system disorders lupus and arthritis. In his case, it’s to make some sort of point about how right he is to tout it as a miracle cure for COVID-19.

On May 18, Trump proudly announced that he is taking the drug to stave off the coronavirus, suggesting that others do so as well, saying “All I can tell you is so far I seem to be OK.” The announcement drew shock and dismay from many in the medical community. 

Of 96,000 patients in 671 hospitals given hydroxychloroquine, one in six of those taking the drug alone died, while one in four patients died if they were on hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic. The death rate among patients not taking the drug at all was one in 11.

There is absolutely no evidence that hydroxychloroquine prevents COVID-19, but this doesn’t seem to bother Trump or his fans, who are following suit and buying up all the supplies. When Trump first mentioned the drug back in March, online demand surged by 1,349 percent. This has caused a scarcity among patients who rely on it.

I have taken hydroxychloroquine for more than 15 years, since I was diagnosed with lupus. 

The drug prevents my immune system from attacking my body on a daily basis; eases the swelling of my joints; stops skin rashes; makes me less light sensitive; prevents blood clots and organ damage. Overall, it gives me a massively better quality of life than I would have without it. 

While Trump has claimed, without evidence, that hydroxychloroquine is a miracle cure for the coronavirus, the World Health Organization and the government of the United Kingdom launched trials to see if it could be an effective treatment for those who have COVID-19. But the trials were halted after a study in the medical journal the Lancet found that patients taking the drug were dying at a much higher rate. 

Of 96,000 patients in 671 hospitals given hydroxychloroquine, one in six of those taking the drug alone died, while one in four patients died if they were on hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic. The death rate among patients not taking the drug at all was one in 11.

Despite these findings, Trump has suggested the drug is safe to use, whether you have coronavirus or not. As he put it, “What do you have to lose?” In fact, as I well know, hydroxychloroquine comes with an extensive list of side effects, from dizziness and mild diarrhea to seizures and potential heart failure. 

Given the stomach, nerve, and head issues that hydroxychloroquine can cause, it is often prescribed in conjunction with a host of other medications. I currently take three other medications to stop migraines and digestive issues. It also interacts with other common medications, such as birth control, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatories, which is why you should never start a new medication without discussing it with a doctor first. 

Trump’s advocacy is putting vulnerable people, including his own supporters, in unnecessary danger, at the potential expense of people who need the medication to live. I’ve taken it for so long that I can’t even bear to think what would happen if I were suddenly denied it. That shouldn’t be something I even have to worry about.

This column was produced for the Progressive Media Project, which is run by The Progressive magazine, and distributed by Tribune News Service.

Citations

[1]https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/18/us/politics/trump-hydroxychloroquine-covid-coronavirus.html[2] Anthony Fauci: Science shows hydroxychloroquine is not effective as a coronavirus treatment - CNNPolitics ➤ https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/27/politics/anthony-fauci-hydroxychloroquine-trump-cnntv/index.html[3] Please don't hoard Hydroxychloroquine because Trump is taking it | Metro News ➤ https://metro.co.uk/2020/05/25/hydroxychloroquine-12747936/[4] Questions raised over hydroxychloroquine study which caused WHO to halt trials for Covid-19 | Medical research | The Guardian ➤ https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/may/28/questions-raised-over-hydroxychloroquine-study-which-caused-who-to-halt-trials-for-covid-19[5] DEFINE_ME ➤ https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)31180-6/fulltext?utm_source=AusSMC+mailing+list&utm_campaign=a5c0a299a0-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_05_26_03_00&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_90d9431cd5-a5c0a299a0-126967137[6]https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/18/trump-says-he-takes-hydroxychloroquine-to-prevent-coronavirus-infection.html[7] Progressive Perspectives - Progressive.org ➤ https://progressive.org/op-eds