It appears that Dr. Anthony Fauci is getting lost in translation.
The diseases expert and top U.S. health official told radio personality Chris Stigall on Tuesday that he would “of course” prescribe chloroquine to treat coronavirus patients, Breitbart reported. Many in the media have tried to suggest that there is a clash between President Donald Trump and Fauci, particularly over the effectiveness of chloroquine and other drugs touted by the president as effective treatments for COVID-19.
“Yeah, of course, particularly if people have no other option. You want to give them hope,” Fauci told Philadelphia’s AM 990 The Answer Radio on Tuesday, according to Breitbart.
Trump v. Fauci?
President Trump has taken flak for touting chloroquine, a drug commonly used to treat malaria, as a potential “game-changer” in the fight against the coronavirus. Trump did say incorrectly that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved the drug for use in patients in COVID-19, but many in the media have sought to contrast Trump’s optimism with the more cautious appraisals of Dr. Fauci to suggest that there is a conflict between the two.
According to The New York Times, Fauci has said that while there is “anecdotal” evidence that chloroquine works against COVID-19, clinical research is needed to prove it. Still, he has defended Trump for wanting to give people hope by expressing optimism about the drug.
Asked Tuesday if he would prescribe it himself, Fauci said “of course” and explained that doctors often administer drugs to fight diseases that those drugs were not originally approved to treat. Such “off-label” use is quite common, he said.
“In fact, for physicians in this country, these drugs are approved drugs for other reasons,” Fauci said, according to Breitbart. “They’re anti-malaria drugs and they’re drugs against certain autoimmune diseases, like lupus. Physicians throughout the country can prescribe that in an off-label way, which means they can write it for something it was not originally approved for. People do that all the time, and it really is an individual choice between the physician and his or her patient as to whether or not they want to do that.”
Lost in translation
Fauci also dismissed any speculation of a rift Tuesday, telling Stigall that rumors of a conflict with Trump are “ridiculous” and that he cannot be at every press briefing with Trump because of his day job at the National Institutes of Health. (His absence from recent briefings led the media to speculate that he was walking on eggshells with the president.) Fauci also said that he likes working with Trump, describing him as a “decisive” leader who listens to advice.
“I meet with [Trump] virtually every day. He listens. I’ve never had a situation where I strongly suggested something to him that he rejected,” Fauci said, according to the Washington Examiner. “I think this idea that there is any conflict between the two of us is not based in any reality.”
New York, the American epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, began the first large clinical trials of chloroquine and azithromycin to treat COVID-19 on Tuesday, according to a local NBC affiliate. There is some concern that speculation about their effectiveness against coronavirus will cause shortages for people who use those drugs to treat chronic conditions like lupus, however, according to ABC7 in Los Angeles.
Still, it appears that Fauci is approaching the topic with a subtlety that is being lost on a coarse, partisan media dead set on making him and Trump into enemies. Fauci isn’t saying that Trump should be rebuked for giving people “false hope,” as some have suggested, but that drugs like chloroquine need to be studied more.
“I think there’s this issue of trying to separate the two of us. There isn’t fundamentally a difference there. [Trump] is coming from it from a hope, layperson standpoint,” Fauci told CBS’s Margaret Brennan on Sunday, according to the Examiner.