Pence's Doctor Disagrees With Trump's on Using Hydroxychloroquine to Prevent Coronavirus

Vice President Mike Pence says he is not preemptively taking the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to ward off COVID-19 like President Donald Trump because his doctor does not recommend using the drug.

Trump said Monday that he been taking the drug to prevent the virus for about a week and a half, despite a lack of evidence that it is safe or effective. Pence is not following the president's example, telling Fox News on Tuesday that his doctor disagrees with Trump's medical advice, while noting that he supports others making different decisions.

"I'm not [taking hydroxychloroquine], but I would never begrudge any American taking the advice of their physician," Pence said. "My physician has not recommended that, but I wouldn't hesitate to take the counsel of my doctor. Any American should do likewise."

In April, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned the public to not take the drug outside of a hospital setting, noting that it could cause "potentially life-threatening heart rhythm problems " and had "not been shown to be safe and effective for treating or preventing COVID-19."

Vice President Mike Pence
Vice President Mike Pence departs the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after a meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on May 19, 2020. Drew Angerer/Getty

Evidence recommending the drug as a treatment for the virus has not been strong. Some early studies showed promise, but several other studies have been less than encouraging. Results from a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) suggested that the drug had no benefit and may increase deaths for patients who take it alone.

Recent studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine also found that hydroxychloroquine had no statistically significant effect on the virus, with one noting that it could increase the risk of patients suffering heart attacks.

Trump heavily touted the drug as a "game changer" before announcing he was taking it. On Tuesday he suggested that any unfavorable evidence about the drug is intended to damage his reputation, claiming the researchers that conducted the VA study were "obviously not friends of the administration," before later describing their conclusion as an "enemy statement."

"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," Trump told reporters. "It was a Trump enemy statement."

Although Pence is not taking the drug himself, he noted that the drug had been approved by the FDA for "off-label use," while suggesting that making as many COVID-19 drugs and remedies available as possible was a priority of the administration.

"This is a time when we wanted to make sure that every American and their doctors had full access to the broadest range of remedies and medicines and that was why the FDA made that approval early on," Pence told Fox News.

Hydroxychloroquine continues to be studied as a possible treatment for the virus, with a double-blind controlled trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health getting underway last week.

Newsweek reached out to Pence's office for comment. This article will be updated with any response.