A day after President Donald Trump declared an anti-malaria drug a game changer in the fight against the novel coronavirus, the nations top infectious disease expert downplayed any role it might play in the fast-moving pandemic and said signs of the drugs promise were purely anecdotal.
Faucis statements at a White House briefing Friday amounted to clinical cold water thrown on the presidents repeated upbeat assessments on the U.S. fight against the virus, also known as COVID-19.
Tune into ABC at 1 p.m. ET and ABC News Live at 4 p.m. ET every weekday for special coverage of the novel coronavirus with the full ABC News team, including the latest news, context and analysis.
Trump has falsely declared in recent weeks that anyone who wants a test could get one, despite limited access in parts of the country that continued through this week.
On Thursday, Trump declared an anti-malaria drug called chloroquine a game changer in the effort to develop a coronavirus treatment and announced the drug had been approved.
Chloroquine, or hydroxychloroquine, has been approved to treat and prevent malaria since 1944. But no drug has been approved to treat COVID-19, and a vaccine is estimated to remain at least a year away.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks while President Donald Trump listens, during a briefing on the latest development of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. at the White House, March 20, 2020, in Washington.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks while President Donald Trump listens, during a briefing on the latest development of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. at the White House, March 20, 2020, in Washington.Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images
When asked if the drug was promising Friday, Fauci, standing next to Trump, said the answer is no because the evidence youre talking about is anecdotal evidence.
The information that youre referring to specifically is antecdotal, he added. It was not done in a controlled clinical trial. So you really cant make any definitive statement about it.
Trump then stepped forward to add: Well see. Were going to know soon.
The president then repeated his assessment that the drug was potentially a game changer and said: “We have millions of units ordered.
When asked if he was giving the nation a false sense of hope, Trump said no.
It may work, it may not work, he said. I feel good about it.
On chloroquine, U.S. health officials say its possible that doctors might could try the drug to treat coronavirus symptoms if its already on the market. Clinical trials are under way.
But the FDA says it wants to study the potential of the drug before recommending its use, in part so that patients and their doctors dont waste critical time on a drug that might not work.
What to know about coronavirus:

  • How it started and how to protect yourself: coronavirus explained
  • What to do if you have symptoms: coronavirus symptoms
  • Tracking the spread in the US and Worldwide: coronavirus map
  • On testing, Fauci said its true that not everyone who wants a test can get one.
    He said access to tests has improved in recent days noticeably, with the private sector having jumped on board.
    But, he added, he continues to hear from people unable to determine if a patient has been infected a serious problem when trying to mitigate the spread.
    I understand and empathize with the people who rightfully are saying Im trying to get a test and I cant, Fauci said.
    A reporter asked: So is that another way of saying we are not at a point where we are meeting the demand pressure?
    The answer is yes We are not there yet because otherwise people would never be calling up saying they cant get a test, he said.
    Fauci and Trump agreed that people without symptoms dont need to tested. And Fauci said even without testing, communities can respond to the outbreak by limiting social contact.
    Testing is important. It would be nice to know. And there are certain things you could do with results, Fauci said. But lets not conflate testing with the action we have to take, which includes social distancing and washing hands.
    ABC News Benjamin Gittleson, and Stephanie Ebbs contributed to this report.