Aussie panel questions Trump's drug use

There's no data the benefit of the malaria drug President Trump is taking would outweigh its risks.
There's no data the benefit of the malaria drug President Trump is taking would outweigh its risks.

There's simply not enough evidence to support Donald Trump's use of a malaria drug to protect himself against COVID-19, an Australian coronavirus task force says.

The US president has revealed he's taking hydroxychloroquine daily because he thinks it's "good" and might keep him safe.

He also admits his doctor didn't recommend the drug.

In fact, he asked for it after spending weeks pushing it as a potential cure - against the views of some medical experts in his own administration.

Australia's National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce is reviewing global evidence about the virus and possible treatments every single day.

Associate Professor Julian Elliott, who chairs the group, is a leading authority on how to convert large volumes of new research into reliable, evidence-based clinical advice.

"As a national body that is monitoring the evidence daily, there is no evidence to suggest anyone should take hydroxychloroquine either for prevention or treatment," Prof Elliott told AAP.

"As of today we can say there is no data that suggests that the benefit of hydroxychloroquine would outweigh its risks."

Yet that's exactly what White House physician Sean Conley said he and Mr Trump concluded when they discussed the president's desire for the drug.

"After numerous discussions he and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks," the doctor said in the memo released by the White House.

He said he would continue to monitor the myriad studies into potential COVID-19 drugs across the world.

Prof Elliott said the drug should only be used for COVID-19 in the context of a carefully managed clinical trial.

"Hydroxychloroquine is being examined in multiple trials. And that is absolutely appropriate. It should be based on the information we have so far," he said.

But he warned extreme caution must be the guiding principle until the jury is in.

Mr Trump has said: "I started taking it because I think it's good. I've heard a lot of good stories."

Just last month, the US Food and Drug Administration warned health professionals the drug should not be used to treat COVID-19 outside hospital or research settings due to sometimes fatal side effects.

Regulators issued the alert after receiving reports of heart rhythm problems, including deaths, from poison control centres and other health providers.

The US president has dismissed reports of side-effects, saying: "All I can tell you is, so far I seem to be OK."

Australian Associated Press