Drug touted by Trump as COVID-19 treatment tied to higher death risk

The anti-malaria drug President Trump says he's taking could be linked to a higher death rate in COVID-19 patients, according to a study published Friday in the medical journal Lancet. The study, which monitored over 96,000 people hospitalized due to the virus, showed that people who took the drug hydroxychloroquine, - or its sister drug chloroquine - had a higher risk of death compared to those who had not been given the medicine.

The research team cautioned against using the drug to treat COVID-19 outside of clinical trials until there are conclusive data on the drug's safety and efficacy. The published study also failed to conclude the drug added any benefit for coronavirus patients.

Demand for the drug, which has the been on the market for decades in relative obscurity, spiked after President Trump started mentioning it in March. He surprised the world this week, when he admitted he's been taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure. "I had a two week regimen of hydroxychloroquine, and I've taken it - I think just about two weeks, I think it's another day, so - and I'm still here. I'm still here."

There is a study currently underway involving more than 40,000 healthcare workers across Europe, Africa, Asia and South America, seeking to determine whether chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine could play a role in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

But previous studies have failed to show either actually works on fighting COVID-19, leading the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in April to issue a warning against its use.

President Trump has repeatedly defended the drug he describes as a "game changer" going as far as calling one study's finding an anti-Trump "enemy statement."