President Trump appeared to suggest on Saturday that the federal government was placing large amounts of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine medication in its Strategic National Stockpile, speaking optimistically about its potential to treat coronavirus patients and saying he would consider taking it himself if needed.
But only anecdotal reports and one small clinical trial have shown any benefits, and the F.D.A. has not approved the drug for coronavirus treatments. Also, a spike in interest in the drug the president has helped fan has left patients who rely on it to treat chronic diseases wondering whether they will be able to fill their prescriptions.
“We’re going to be distributing it through the Strategic National Stockpile,” Mr. Trump said at a White House news conference, adding, “we have millions and millions of doses of it. Twenty-nine million to be exact.”
Previous reports from China and France that hydroxychloroquine seemed to help patients, along with enthusiastic comments from Mr Trump, have created a buzz around hydroxychloroquine and the closely related chloroquine, which are decades-old drugs also used to treat autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, fanning demand that has led to hoarding and shortages.
With no proven treatment for the coronavirus, many hospitals have simply been giving hydroxychloroquine to patients, reasoning that it might help and probably will not hurt, because it is relatively safe.
Mr. Trump said he also had spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India about procuring millions more doses of hydroxycholoriquine from that country.
At one point, Mr. Trump appeared to offer medical advice. “What do you have to lose? Take it. I really think they should take it,” Mr. Trump said.
“Hydroxychloroquine. Try it. If you’d like,” he added.
On Friday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases, warned Americans against assuming the drug would be a silver bullet against the coronavirus, noting that evidence of its effectiveness was scant and more studies were needed.