Here are seven times that Fox News promoted taking hydorxychloroquine to prevent contracting COVID-19
Molly Butler / Media Matters 

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Here are seven times that Fox News promoted taking hydroxychloroquine to prevent contracting COVID-19

On May 18, President Donald Trump declared he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure against contracting the novel coronavirus. As CNN reported, the Food and Drug Administration “has warned against the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat the novel coronavirus and said they should only be used in hospitals or clinical trials because they can kill or cause serious side effects.” 

Medical experts say there is no evidence to suggest hydroxychloroquine is an effective preventative treatment for COVID-19. Nonetheless, Fox News has repeatedly promoted the drug as a game-changing treatment for the disease, as well as touting its supposed benefits as a prophylactic. Here are seven times that Fox News promoted taking hydroxychloroquine to prevent contracting COVID-19.

  • Laura Ingraham, March 16

  • Laura Ingraham claimed chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine “has strong potential as a prophylactic preventative measure against coronavirus.”

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): And up next, now the scientists are saying that they're developing a vaccine for the coronavirus, it could take months and not be implemented once it's found for 12 to 18 months, given we have to look at harmful side effects and so forth. But what if there's already a cheap and widely available medication that's on the market to treat the virus? Well, according to a new study, there is such a drug. It's called chloroquine. And that study found that use of chloroquine and its tablets is showing favorable outcomes in humans infected with coronavirus, including faster time to recovery and shorter hospital stays. CDC research shows that chloroquine also has strong potential as a prophylactic preventative measure against coronavirus in the lab and while we wait for a vaccine to be developed.

    Tonight, joining me now is one of the co-authors of that study, Gregory Rigano. Gregory, how big a game changer could chloroquine and its sister drug hydroxychloroquine be if, say, we began using it fairly promptly to treat Americans who are highly at risk -- the elderly and people who are already compromised?

    GREGORY RIGANO: Yes, thank you for having me on. So let me just start. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are generic drugs, traditionally prescribed in tablet form. They've been around since World War II. They are on the World Health Organization's list of the most essential medicines, and they're generally accepted as safe, especially hydroxychloroquine has an even better safety profile than chloroquine.

    And what we see in both the South Korean and Chinese treatment guidelines -- we don't have clinical trials yet from there. They both say, use chloroquine as a treatment. And what I'm here to report, and I'm kind of front-running here and I have to apologize, but we are in a state of emergency and [indecipherable] an MD, Ph.D. from the south recorded, he's going to publish it in the next few days, that in a 30-patient controlled clinical study -- that means there's a patient arm that is taking hydroxychloroquine and a patient arm that's taking nothing as a placebo -- and these patients that are taking nothing are heroes. Within a matter of six days, the patients taking hydroxychloroquine tested negative for coronavirus, COVID-19. Within that same time the patients that took the control tested positive. This is a well-controlled study. And what we need to proceed here is a global well-controlled study to demonstrate its effectiveness, so medical doctors are comfortable prescribing this worldwide.

    And before you come up, the most important thing is that this is likely an effective treatment by our south of France eminent -- I mean, he's one of the most eminent infectious disease specialists in the whole world. But specifically, we have strong reason to believe that a preventative dose of hydroxychloroquine is going to prevent the virus from attaching to the body and just get rid of it completely.

    INGRAHAM: Yes --

    RIGANO: Basically functioning --

    INGRAHAM: That's a game changer. And, again, it has been used against the SARS. It's a very well-known antiviral, very -- everyone knows it who has gone to maybe Africa or other places where malaria is a problem. I took it a couple years ago. I've actually taken it four times. And I've gone on -- three times, excuse me. Three different trips to Africa. I always took chloroquine. It's just one of -- and that's a generic, but there are -- you could get other brand names of it. But this is about 5 cents a tablet, and again, we want this to be done on a global scale, controlled study, that's a bigger study group. But this could really buy us time. And it's critical that this be done and that the administration through the FDA, they've cut red tape. They continue to cut red tape and fast-track any other study of this we have to do, but especially for compromised patients in the elderly. Gregory, you're giving us information a lot of people weren't aware of. Thank you very much tonight. [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 3/16/2020]

  • Laura Ingraham, March 20

  • Ingraham claimed that hydroxychloroquine “can be prescribed widely as a prophylactic, a preventative against getting the virus at all.”

    LAURA INGRAHAM (HOST): Dr. Grace, there are a lot of skeptics and I understand it's great to be skeptical, but there are a lot of skeptics out there about this drug that is currently in use in the United States. CNN in particular. Watch.

    All right, they're accusing Trump — sorry — of peddling false hope with chloroquine. For the past two days, Trump has said he was dispensing a game-changer breakthrough on treatments. It's holding out promise of hope and optimism to shift attention from the reality of alarming rises in infections, a building economic crisis, shortage of ventilators, the federal government's botched coronavirus testing rollout, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Is it just false hope or do we have at least, you know, examples in our country right now of this working including in your hospital?

    DR. WILLIAM GRACE (ONCOLOGIST): Well, Laura, you saw the curves that you just put on showing the different viral free curves of those who had standard therapy, those who had hydroxychloroquine, and those who had the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, where all those who got the combination were basically virus free by day five. And the results of those tests that show that hydroxychloroquine alone and the synergism between hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, the results of that testing, there was only one chance in 10,000 that that could have happened by chance alone.

    That's highly significant data. You know, we look at data today and we accept one chance in 20 of having it by chance alone as being statistically significant. One chance in 10,000 is huge, and the president is exactly right. This is going to help a lot of people.

    By the way, the tension you show of — you saw between Anthony Fauci and the president today, both can have their cake and eat it too because you can take the seriously ill people and treat them off-label with the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, and then you can take those people who are not so seriously ill and put them on whatever randomized trial you want. And as many limbs as you want because there'll be plenty of patients out there that will be sick and not so serious than they're in danger of dying.

    INGRAHAM: Well and some of the researchers are saying it's a — I mean, it can be prescribed widely as a prophylactic, a preventative against getting the virus at all. So the only problem I have is when Fauci says, oh, it's just anecdotal and it's kind of a blow-off. I mean, I get it. They want a 2,000-person controlled, randomized trial, I understand that, but this is an emergency and it's working for a lot of people.

    GRACE: Well, when this whole problem with COVID-19 is over, we'll talk about the same problems exist in cancer where you have breakthrough therapies identified by people's, you know, very outstanding people and it's called anecdotal and it's just forgotten and buried. But let's get rid of COVID-19 first, and I think the president is exactly right on this and so is Dr. Fauci. We can have our cake and we can eat it too. [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 3/20/20]

  • Sean Hannity, March 18

  • Sean Hannity claimed, “Some are saying, [hydroxychloroquine] would act almost like a prophylactic, protect people from getting it.”

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Dr. Hotez, let me go to you. You've been making very fascinating, interesting comments. I don't -- I'm not a doctor and I will not play one on TV, but you keep hearing about this malaria drug that has shown previously with SARS, which corona one, if you will, or corona-like virus that they've had a lot of success with, chloroquine phosphate. There's also talk about an Ebola drug that is showing some impact and other drugs that perhaps the president will be talking about tomorrow with the FDA, I would assume rapidly moving forward with the process. What can you tell us? Should we put hope in this? Some are saying, it would act almost like a prophylactic, protect people from getting it, or if they have it, studies have shown that, in fact, it will reduce the symptoms more quickly and less hospitalization time.

    DR. PETER HOTEZ (TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT): Yeah, I mean, I think, Sean, first of all, thanks for having me. I think what you are going to see in coming months is you're going to see the full horsepower of American science applied to this epidemic in the way of new vaccines, new drugs, new diagnostics, new innovative approaches. I mean, this is where America shines, big, audacious goals in the area of science coming out of our research universities and institutes. So, we've developed a vaccine that we're hoping to move into clinical trials over the next few weeks. There will be several other vaccines, but vaccines are going to take a while. That's probably at least a year, year and a half away, according to Dr. Fauci, and I think he's right. Maybe longer.

    But there's still a lot we can do right now, and one of them is new antiviral drugs, which the timelines could be a lot quicker. And you mentioned chloroquine, there's some promising data coming out of my colleague Didier Raoult, who is out of southern France. And that could be potentially exciting if it holds up. And there's two reasons I'm kind of interested by it. One, the drug itself can show to inhibit virus replication in the test tube. That doesn't mean it works in the person. But it also has some anti-inflammatory effects. So, those two combined to make it a very intriguing drug, and there are some preliminary data.

    So, we'll see how that moves along over the coming weeks in clinical trials. So, that's what I'm looking at. You mentioned some of the other antiviral drugs and also bringing on some antibody, isolated from recovered patients and using that as a therapy.

    HANNITY: Yes.

    HOTEZ: And even those prophylactics for our first responders. So, you're going to see a lot of things coming through, and again, this is -- this is where America is great.

    HANNITY: Dr. Jackson, I mean, other antiviral drugs, for example, that were used with HIV or in this case, chloroquine, which we were talking about, again, a drug that was discovered many decades ago, used for malaria, others that have shown promise. What do you expect tomorrow in terms of what possible announcement the FDA will make with the president?

    DR. RONNY JACKSON (FORMER WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN): Well, I think, Sean, you know, he's just going to -- the president has freed up a lot of money right now with the declaration of an emergency, he's freed up billions and billions of dollars that he can be used to jump into the private sector so that these companies can go out and they can afford to find these drugs that we're looking for. And I think the good news here is what the president is going to say is that he got rid of a lot of those regulations and standard operating procedures that made it difficult to push drugs out. We're going to focus on drugs that are already out there, that are being used for other diseases. That's going to really expedite things, because these drugs are -- most of them have already been proven safe in humans, so it's just going to be a matter of time and the ones that work and not having to prove that they are safe for human consumption.

    So I think that's going to be a big part of it, and I think there's a lot of drugs that out there on the horizon right now, there's a lot of companies that are out there looking at it. And we're going to find something good, we're going to find something that works. [Fox News, Hannity, 3/18/20]

  • Sean Hannity, March 19

  • Hannity declared that hydroxychloroquine has “prophylactic use that actually helps prevention, of contracting the disease.”

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): Let's go to these three possible treatments, the two drugs and plasma treatments, chloroquine particularly helpful. I had two calls on my radio show said their young kids used it and effectiveness was dramatic. Not for this but for what underlying other issues.

    SEEMA VERMA (ADMINISTRATOR FOR THE CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES): Well, the president received high praise from the nation's governors today because of his strong leadership across the federal government and the FDA was no different. You know, we got a great commissioner there, Steve Hahn. And he is working with the president around getting out red tape so that these types of therapeutics can become more readily available. And we're looking at medications that are already out there to see, could they have a potential impact, looking at new therapeutics. And then the vaccines are in development. And those are progressing in record time.

    HANNITY: Well, OK. So, if we look at this -- now, we have some data of what apparently we are learning from South Korea, what we're learning if you believe China, OK, from them, even France has some data on this. It is showing -- it works two ways, prophylactic use that actually helps prevention, of contracting the disease, and secondly, quickly, altering the trajectory of getting to better health dramatically, people are getting out of hospitals faster, et cetera. [Fox News, Hannity, 3/19/20]

  • Tucker Carlson, March 19

  • Tucker Carlson hosted a pharmaceutical executive who spoke of hydroxychloroquine’s potential as “a prophylactic agent.”

    TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): So just how optimistic should we be about this and why would a drug created to treat malaria be so effective against a completely different illness. Dr. Mihael Polymeropoulos is CEO of Vanda Pharmaceuticals and he joins us tonight. Doctor, thanks so much for coming on tonight. This is for -- even for people who are paying attention a little bit out of the blue, non-doctors, most people haven't heard of this drug. Tell us what it does and why it might beat coronavirus.

    DR. MIHAEL POLYMEROPOULOS (CEO, VANDA PHARMACEUTICALS): Thank you very much, Tucker, for having me on. And the president is right, that we need to pay attention to chloroquine and the work that is being done around the world and the adoption of guidelines for the treatment of the COVID-19 infection. As you said, chloroquine is an older drug. It was discovered actually in 1934 in Germany and used to treat successfully malaria for all this time. What we know about this drug is substantial evidence over the last 10 years that it can indeed attack coronaviruses, and that includes the SARS virus, the MERS virus -- the Middle East Respiratory Syncytial virus and now COVID-19. And most recently work that started in China in publications with clinical trials and patients saw that chloroquine can have a significant place in the treatment of patients with the coronavirus. And the way it works, the coronavirus is a virus, it's not the parasite that causes malaria. But the way this drug works, it appears that it interferes first with the entry of the virus into the human cell and then interferes with the machinery that allows the virus to replicate. So you can see why there can be a lot of excitement that it can be an effective therapeutic and it could be a prophylactic agent as well. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 3/19/20]

  • Tucker Carlson, March 30

  • On Tucker Carlson Tonight, Fox medical contributor Dr. Marc Siegel speculated that hydroxychloroquine “may be” best used “as a prevention, as a prophylactic, or early when you first start to see symptoms.”

    DR. MARC SIEGEL (FOX NEWS MEDICAL CONTRIBUTOR): I also want to give a shout out to somebody called Tucker Carlson, who because of your attention to hydroxychloroquine, night after night talking to frontline people about this drug, insisting that it be taken seriously, I believe our focus on this drug has led directly to FDA emergency approval, which may save many lives, Tucker.

    TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): So how do -- thank you. I mean, obviously not my lane, but it does seem promising. Is it turning out to be? Are doctors using it effectively to treat this disease?

    SIEGEL: There's many, many instances of that around the world. There's that small study we talked about in France. In China, it was used a lot. It was used in South Korea. I talked to a top rheumatologist who has been using it for years for lupus who believes it has significant antiviral properties. It's been shown in the test tube to fight COVID-19 effectively. The real question is how early in the game to use it? In other words, it may be that it's best used as a healthcare worker told you last week as a prevention, as a prophylactic, or early when you first start to see symptoms. I think some of the other drugs I'm talking about tonight, the anti-HIV drug, the antiviral drugs, the ones to suppress immune response in pneumonia, and again, it's a kind of pneumonia, which isn't the virus. It's the immune system going against you that, that's the other drugs. I think the hydroxychloroquine is more useful earlier on to decrease the amount of virus that's circulating and causing the damage. So we are trying to fight this on all fronts with experimental drugs, antiviral drugs, and we're starting to see some impact. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 3/30/20]

  • Dr. Mehmet Oz, April 3

  • On Fox & Friends, Dr. Mehmet Oz claimed hydroxychloroquine may “actually be a prophylactic, preventative tool.”

    DR. MEHMET OZ: Well, I think we are still getting comfortable with the data. Just to highlight the study, it’s the number one solution used by physicians. Now we don’t know for sure how effective it’s going to be. We have one randomized trial that’s positive, one that is negative. We have a bunch of data collected. I just got an email this morning from the French Dr. Didier Raoult, who’s almost up to 1,000 patients now. He’s going to share that with us next week on the show. So, it’s coming in quickly and generally speaking it seems to be safe, which is the first thing you want to assess. But American physicians desire large, randomized trials. I tell you, you have Dr. Fauci coming on, if you could ask a question of him for me. I’m wondering if he was impressed by or what his thoughts are on the Chinese study that we discussed yesterday from Wuhan that reflected statistically significant improvement and recovery from fever, from cough, and in the pneumonia as well, the three things that you sort of want to see in a randomized trial. Admittedly, it was small, but actually that might be an asset. If it only took 62 patients to show statistically significant benefit, which means it wasn’t just random chance, then that usually reflects a pretty powerful solution. It’s still early. We need more done, but since we’re marching into war, could we work with this army and bring them along?

    Listen, I'm all for the need to be careful about the use of these meds cause folks who have lupus and rheumatoid arthritis don't want to run out of these meds, but fascinatingly, the Chinese say that in their experience patients taking these medications don't get COVID-19, so maybe it will actually be a prophylactic, preventive tool. We’re studying that as well at Columbia, but we have to get access to the med. [Fox & Friends, 4/3/20]