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Here’s What Happens When Donald Trump Gives Medical Advice


Donald Trump speaks at the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House

Earlier this month, Donald Trump bragged to reporters during a tour of the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, telling them he has a “natural ability” to understand medicine and science. And it’s pretty clear that he actually believes that’s true—that he has some innate scientific intelligence that allows him to disregard the advice of health experts and medical professionals.

But just because Trump thinks he’s a scientific savant, that absolutely does not make him one and it’s legitimately dangerous for him to pretend otherwise.

Recently, Trump has been talking a lot about finding a cure for the coronavirus, specifically focusing on the potential of two drugs called chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, which are used to treat malaria, lupus, and other conditions. Trump touted the drugs in press briefings as well as on Twitter, calling them “game changers.”

“The nice part is,” Trump said last week, “it’s been around for a long time, so we know that if things don’t go as planned, it’s not going to kill anybody.” Except then it did. (Sort of.)

Trump recently tweeted a link to an article about a man who says his life was saved after he took one of the drugs, trusting Trump’s advice over his doctors’.

He seems to be ignoring the story of another man who died after taking Trump’s advice. The Banner Health medical group in Arizona has posted on their website about a couple who attempted to self-medicate with chloroquine phosphate, which Banner describes as “an additive commonly used at aquariums to clean fish tanks” but which has the same name as one of the drugs being tested as one of the potential treatments for the coronavirus, according to a study cited by the CDC and Trump in one of his press briefings.

“Within thirty minutes of ingestion, the couple experienced immediate effects requiring admittance to a nearby Banner Health hospital,” the group’s post reads. One of the two has died and his wife is under critical care.

While this couple made a tragic mistake by ingesting straight poison instead of the actual medication, it’s a clear example of why Trump shouldn’t be using Twitter to offer medical advice that he is 100% unqualified to give in the first place.

Even beyond this case in Arizona, Trump’s recommendation of the drugs is having a disastrous effect on those who need them for existing conditions. With so many people finding ways to acquire the drug either to self-medicate or stock up “just in case,” those who already rely on it are finding it in short supply.

Pharmacies across the country have the medications on backorder and some lupus patients have reportedly begun to ration their existing medication supply, which is incredibly dangerous.

It would be absolutely amazing if this (or another) drug ends up being an effective treatment for COVID-19. But in the meantime, hoarding it won’t help anyone, but it does have the potential to hurt a lot of people.

(image: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.