CDC Pulls ‘Unusual’ Guidance On Anti-Malarial Drug Touted By Donald Trump For Coronavirus

U.S. President Donald Trump answers questions in the press briefing room with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force on April 4, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Sarah Silbiger / Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pulled guidance advising doctors on how to prescribe the anti-malarial drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, which have been recommended by President Donald Trump for treating the novel coronavirus.

As Reuters reports, the CDC initially published information about the two drugs several days ago, providing anecdotal advice on how to dose patients with the medications. The dosing information was unattributed and didn’t link to any peer-reviewed studies.

“Although optimal dosing and duration of hydroxychloroquine for treatment of COVID-19 are unknown, some U.S. clinicians have reported anecdotally” on ways to use the medication to treat the novel coronavirus, the site read.

But after a backlash from medical experts, the language — which one scientist called “unusual” — was removed from the site.

The dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health and George Washington University, Dr. Lynn Goldman, said that the language on the site was not typical of information provided by the CDC.

“Why would CDC be publishing anecdotes?” Goldman asked. “That doesn’t make sense. This is very unusual.”

Jeffrey Flier, the former dean of Harvard Medical School, was also critical of the wording.

In past weeks, Trump has touted the two drugs as a treatment for COVID-19, despite the lack of rigorous scientific evidence to support their use. He has also reportedly pushed to relax federal regulation on the drugs so that they can be made more available as a treatment option.

Shortly after Trump’s statement, the CDC added the language about the drugs to its website.

“There are no drugs or other therapeutics approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to prevent or treat COVID-19,” the website now states instead. It also says that “hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are under investigation in clinical trials” for treating COVID-19.

Flier cheered the update.

“It states the facts without in effect recommending that physicians prescribe the drugs despite a lack of adequate evidence,” Flier said.

The CDC says that it initially included the dosing guidelines at the request of members of the coronavirus task force, which includes Vice President Mike Pence, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Outside of the task force, Trump has been advised by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Trump himself has said that, despite testing negative for the virus, he might take the drugs, which are usually reserved to treat malaria and diseases like lupus.