'This will kill you': People are warning others following Trump's apparent use of hydroxychloroquine

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump announced Monday he is taking hydroxychloroquine, a drug unproven against the coronavirus. Soon after, "Flintstone Vitamins" began trending on Twitter.

But, many doctors, journalists and politicians issued stern warnings after the president's revelation.

Trump, who said he has tested negative for COVID-19, said he has been taking hydroxychloroquine daily for about a week and a half as an added measure to avoid getting the coronavirus. He said the White House physician "didn't recommend" hydroxychloroquine but offered it to him.

He has repeatedly touted the drug as a treatment for coronavirus, despite little concrete evidence it effectively treats the disease. There is no data to support the notion that hydroxychloroquine helps people infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

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Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto warned of taking hydroxychloroquine, saying it could kill people who are in certain health risk populations.

"The fact of the matter is though, when the president said 'what have you got to lose?', in a number of studies, those certain vulnerable population has one thing to lose: their lives," Cavuto said.

He continued, "I cannot stress enough. This will kill you. So, again, whatever benefits the president says this has, and certainly it has had for those suffering from malaria, dealing with lupus, this is a leap that should not be taking casually by those watching from home or assuming well the president of the United States says it's ok."

A few studies have shown the drug has not been effective against COVID-19, and some point to an increase in heart problems.

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The FDA has cautioned that hydroxychloroquine should be limited to people in clinical trials, which are carefully overseen, or who are hospitalized, due to concerns about the potentially dangerous adverse effects. Trump appears to be taking it as a prophylactic, with the thought it could prevent someone exposed to coronavirus from getting it.

"Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have not been shown to be safe and effective for treating or preventing COVID-19," the FDA warned. Both can cause abnormal heart rhythms and a dangerously rapid heart rate, the statement said.

Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and former health commissioner for Baltimore, tweeted that "There is NO evidence for hydrochloroquine being effective in treatment of #covid19 or prophylaxis to prevent the disease."

"This is a medication that has serious side effects. I am very concerned about @realDonaldTrump continuing to model behavior that could harm many Americans," she concluded.

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Senator Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, tweeted, "I took hydroxychloroquine too. For malaria, 28 years ago. Because I am not a lunatic."

Congressman Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who briefly ran to be the 2020 Democratic nominee, warned followers to not self-medicate with the drug, and posted that, "The FDA has repeatedly warned against taking hydroxychloroquine. It has potentially deadly side effects."

Trump's top health advisers – Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx – showed up at a White House event last Friday with protective masks, though the president himself continued to avoid using any facial protection in public.

More: Anthony Fauci, Deborah Birx wear masks, Trump doesn't in address on coronavirus vaccines

Some on Twitter took their criticism of Trump's reveal a step further on Monday, using GIFs and references to Flintstones Vitamins to express their disbelief:

Contributing: Courtney Subramanian, John Fritze, Elizabeth Weise, David Jackson

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19: Trump claims he is taking hydroxychloroquine