House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Monday she was concerned after President Donald Trump claimed he had taken an unproven anti-malaria drug for weeks in the hopes of preventing COVID-19, pointing to the president’s age and weight and the threat of serious side effects linked to the treatment.
“He’s our president, and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists,” Pelosi told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday, adding: “Especially in his age group, and in his, shall we say, weight group, what is morbidly obese, they say.”
“So I think it is not a good idea.”
Trump said Monday that he had been taking doses of hydroxychloroquine after touting the drug as a potential treatment for the coronavirus. There is no known evidence, however, that it works in COVID-19 cases, and the Food and Drug Administration warned against its use last month except in formal medical studies.
The president’s claim sparked fears not just for Trump himself but also for the precedent it could set for Americans who look to the White House for leadership. Studies have shown the drug does not lower the risk of dying or needing a breathing tube in patients with severe cases of COVID-19, and a study of Veterans Affairs patients actually found higher death rates in those hospitalized with coronavirus infections.
Pelosi’s concern is grounded in the president’s medical records. During his checkup last year, Trump measured 6 feet, 3 inches and weighed 243 pounds, which would qualify him as obese, according to the National Institutes of Health.
The NIH’s body mass index measures above-normal weight in the overweight and obese categories. Trump’s reported measurements would give him a BMI of 30.4, and the NIH considers anything above 30 as obese, but its index does not list a separate range for morbid obesity.
The president is also 73 and in an age bracket that puts him at greater risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned older adults to take increased precautions as cases of the coronavirus spread around the nation, and preliminary studies released last month found obesity may be a predictor of severe coronavirus illnesses.
Trump continued to claim on Monday that hydroxychloroquine would be a boon for Americans, telling reporters they would be “surprised at how many people are taking it.” He has reportedly pushed health officials to direct federal funding to hydroxychloroquine studies.
“I’ve heard a lot of good stories,” Trump said. “And if it is not good, I will tell you right. I’m not going to get hurt by it. It has been around for 40 years for malaria, for lupus, for other things.”
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