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Unlike Trump, Pence says he's not taking hydroxychloroquine

"My physician hasn’t recommended that, but I wouldn’t hesitate" to take it if he did, Pence said of the drug Trump says he's taking preventatively.
Image: Donald Trump
Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on April 19, 2020.Patrick Semansky / AP file

Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday he's not taking hydroxychloroquine, an unproven treatment for COVID-19 that President Donald Trump has vigorously promoted and claims to be taking himself.

"My physician hasn’t recommended that but I wouldn’t hesitate to take the counsel of my doctor," Pence told Fox News in an interview from NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. "I would never begrudge any American taking the advice of their physician."

Trump announced Monday that he's been taking the drug for about 10 days, despite warnings from the Food and Drug Administration that it can cause potential heart problems and initial studies that have shown the antimalarial drug is not an effective treatment for the coronavirus.

Trump downplayed the potential risks on Tuesday, and incorrectly said there's only been one negative study about the drug's impact on the virus. "If you look at the one survey, the only bad survey, they were giving it to people that were in very bad shape. They were very old, almost dead. It was a Trump enemy statement," he said.

"I think it gives you an additional level of safety," he said, adding - erroneously - "it doesn't hurt people."

Experts say it can cause fatal heart arrhythmia.

Trump has said he'd consulted with the White House physician about the drug, and the doctor gave him a prescription.

In a statement Monday night, the doctor, Sean P. Conley, said, "After numerous discussions, he and I had for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks." The statement does not explicitly say he prescribed the drug for the president.

Trump's comments came more than a week after the White House on May 7 said that the president's valet had tested positive for the virus. A day later, Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller also tested positive for coronavirus.

The president and vice president are tested for the virus on a daily basis, and all tests have been negative, White House officials have said.