As of the start of the writing of this article, Donald Trump is already more than half an hour late for today’s edition of the daily coronavirus press briefings that he commandeered after he realized that his Task Force head, Vice President Mike Pence was getting all the credit for any minute semblance of competence associated with the administration’s response to the crisis.
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That’s likely a good thing although not nearly as beneficial as if the president were to skip attending the briefings entirely since his contradictions of health experts in favor of crackpot conspiracy theories and racist insinuations about the origins of the COVID-19 virus and his promotion of untested and unproven drugs as potential miracle cures for the virus have proven to be not only dangerous but in at least one case downright deadly.
Trump’s constant harping about the potential of an anti-malarial drug Hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for the coronavirus infection — despite the fact that it has neither been tested for safety and efficacy by the Food and Drug Administration under a proper drug testing protocol — has led to the first confirmed U.S. fatality due to his ignorant spread of misinformation, even after Nigeria reported two cases of chloroquine overdose poisoning after Trump first started mentioning it as a possible cure.
Not only did Trump force medical experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to contradict his optimism about potential cures and vaccines in disclaimers to press after Trump yielded the microphone at the briefings, but Trump continued to push the drug as a miracle cure in subsequent Twitter postings even after he had been publicly corrected.
HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine. The FDA has moved mountains – Thank You! Hopefully they will BOTH (H works better with A, International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents)…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2020
Now, NBC News is reporting that “an Arizona man died after ingesting chloroquine phosphate in an attempt to protect himself from becoming infected with the coronavirus. The man’s wife also ingested the drug and is currently under critical care.”
Chloroquine phosphate is a commonly used ingredient used for cleaning fish tanks and, while chemically related to Hydroxychloroquine, the two chemicals are quite distinct.
In response to the news, Dr. Daniel Brooks, the medical director for Banner Poison and Drug Information Center, said that “given the uncertainty around COVID-19, we understand that people are trying to find new ways to prevent or treat this virus, but self-medicating is not the way to do so.”
“Medical toxicologists and emergency physicians are warning the public against the use of inappropriate medications and household products to prevent or treat COVID-19. In particular, Banner Health experts emphasize that chloroquine, a malaria medication, should not be ingested to treat or prevent this virus,” the Banner Health system said in a statement.
Even if properly administered by a doctor in a clinical setting, the false hopes that the president has set up for the non-approved use of the drug has caused a run on the medication that is now preventing researchers from obtaining sufficient quantities of the substance to run legitimate trials of the chemical on COVID-10 patients to see if it can actually make a significant difference in treatment of the disease, as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes reported.
The president touting hydroxychloroquine has, predictably, triggered hoarding of the drug to the point that even one hospital I know attempting to administer it as part of a trial is having a hard time getting its hands on the drug.
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) March 23, 2020
Of course, during the course of writing this article, Trump has finally begun today’s press briefing and continues to promote the drug as a proven success, with Dr. Fauci missing in action at the podium after contradicting the president last week and stealing his limelight.
Bill Barr keeps touching his face pic.twitter.com/V4La6ecZ6q
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 23, 2020
With Trump now appearing to be ready to prematurely end the quarantines that are keeping the virus from spreading more rapidly because the economic consequences of shuttered businesses look like they will soon shutter his reelection chances, the overdose death of the man who trusted the president’s hype about the potential cure will likely not be the last death that Trump will bear responsibility for.
The price for believing this man is far too high to be worth trusting your — or the country’s — future to his veracity or his “hunches” and “feelings.” He will get us all killed if he’s not removed from power as soon as possible.
Original reporting by Erika Edwards at NBC News.