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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Video: Trump’s Exaggerated COVID-19 Drug Claims

In this video, we look at President Donald Trump’s misleading claim that there’s “very strong evidence” to support his hope that a malaria drug can treat COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. 

Trump has touted two malaria drugs — chloroquine and its derivative hydroxychloroquine — that also are approved for use to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. But there is only limited evidence at this time to suggest the drugs are safe and effective against the new coronavirus.

A few lab studies show the drugs have antiviral effects against the new coronavirus in cells grown in culture. But that’s only in cells.

In the past, for example, chloroquine has been found to inhibit a variety of viruses in cells, including influenza and chikungunya. But when tested in animals or people, those results didn’t hold.

China has reportedly used chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine in some COVID-19 clinical trials, but most of those studies haven’t been published yet. One that has been published found “no significant reduction in time to clinical improvement or viral clearance in the hydroxychloroquine arm compared to the conventional therapy control group,” according to a World Health Organization report.

The authors of the trial concluded that the drug needed to be tested in a larger group of patients.

Despite the president’s enthusiasm for the potential of hydroxychloroquine, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has cautioned that the evidence supporting the drug is anecdotal — and that it would take a large, well-done clinical trial to prove its effectiveness.

For more information, read our story “Trump Hypes Potential COVID-19 Drugs, But Evidence So Far Is Slim.” Also, see the “Guide to Our Coronavirus Coverage” for more stories on the pandemic.