Amid Fox News’ round-the-clock promotion of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential coronavirus cure, renowned biologist Dr. William Haseltine told Fox News host Dana Perino on Monday that it was “irresponsible” to tout the unproven drug and called claims of its miraculous healing powers “complete and utter nonsense.”
Haseltine, who recently said Trump’s response to the pandemic was “among the worst in the world” and “dangerous,” was asked by Perino to give his thoughts on the drug which the president has called a “game-changer” despite limited evidence of its effectiveness.
“It is sad, to me, that people are promoting that drug,” Haseltine, known for his HIV/AIDS research, responded. “We know, already, from studies, at best it will have a very mild effect. At very best.”
The doctor went on to note that there have been conflicting studies on the drug’s efficacy in treating coronavirus, reiterating that even studies showing a positive effect show it to be “very mild.” He also said that the drug has been used against other viruses to no effect.
“The thing that makes me sad about that story is some people may take it who are on other medications who have other underlying conditions and may have very serious, even life-threatening consequences,” Haseltine declared. “It is not something to take unless a doctor prescribes it.”
Perino, meanwhile, defended the promotion of the drug, noting that the administration has left it up to doctors whether they want to prescribe the drug for off-label use to treat the disease before bringing up some of the more sensational stories of hydroxychloroquine’s effectiveness.
“What about, I know you don’t go by anecdotal evidence, but there are stories of people saying that they have had this Lazarus effect by using this drug,” Perino wondered aloud.
“That is nonsense,” Haseltine fumed. “Complete and utter nonsense. And in any situation, there are always going to be people who promote one kind of quack cure or another. And there are Lazarus effects.”
Last week, Fox News host Laura Ingraham was forced by Twitter to remove a tweet in which she claimed that a Lenox Hill coronavirus patient had a “Lazarus”-like recovery after taking hydroxychloroquine. The doctor who apparently told her the claim, however, was not an oncologist at Lenox Hill, as Ingraham had originally asserted.
“We know that at very best, this drug will have a very mild effect on changing the course of the disease, if it has any effect at all,” Haseltine continued. “That is what the data has shown so far, and I am convinced that that is what further studies will show. And it is not without adverse consequence. It is irresponsible to promote this drug at this time.”
“I hear you loud and clear,” Perino replied.
Fox News hosts and commentators, along with frequent guest Dr. Mehmet Oz, have repeatedly pushed and endorsed hydroxychloroquine as an effective treatment of COVID-19, prompting the president to endlessly hype the drug. Besides calling it a “game-changer,” Trump has suggested that he “may take it”—despite not being diagnosed with the disease—while encouraging Americans to use it.
“What do you have to lose?” Trump asked over the weekend.