Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday he is not taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive treatment for the coronavirus.
“My physician hasn’t recommended that, but I wouldn’t hesitate to take the counsel of my doctor. Any American should do likewise,” Pence said when asked by Fox News about whether he was doing so.
The interview came a day after President Donald Trump said he has been taking a daily dose of the anti-malaria drug for the past week. Trump has called the drug a “game changer,” but no drug has been proven effective in treating the coronavirus or preventing transmission of the disease.
Trump said Monday he was taking hydroxychloroquine, as well as zinc and an “original dose” of antibiotic azithromycin, known as Z-Pak, after asking the White House physician about the drugs.
“I asked him, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘Well, if you’d like it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’d like it. I’d like to take it,’” Trump told reporters at the White House.
After a lunch with GOP senators on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Trump said that deciding whether to take hydroxychloroquine is a personal decision, but that he believes it provides an additional level of safety.
The Food and Drug Administration has warned that hydroxychloroquine can cause “serious heart rhythm problems” in patients with the virus who were treated with it, often in combination with azithromycin.
Following Trump’s remarks, however, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement Tuesday that “The decision to take any drug is ultimately a decision between a patient and their doctor. Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are already FDA-approved for treating malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.”
During a Cabinet meeting later Tuesday afternoon, Trump pushed back when asked about the FDA’s warning. Trump claimed there “was a false study done where they gave [hydroxychloroquine] to very sick people … people ready to die. It was given by obviously not friends of the administration.”
Pence noted Tuesday that hydroxychloroquine has been approved for “off-label” use by the FDA, “where physicians could prescribe hydroxychloroquine in terms they deemed appropriate.”
Still, Pence said “I’m not” taking the drug. “But I would never begrudge any American taking the advice of their physician.”
The White House has not been sealed off from the disease: Earlier this month, Pence’s press secretary, Katie Miller, tested positive for Covid-19. Her diagnosis came a day after one of Trump’s personal valets tested positive. A senior official told NBC News at the time that Pence would distance himself from other people for a few days.