KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Republican congressman from Kansas who is also a doctor says he has been taking a malaria drug being touted by President Donald Trump as way to protect against the coronavirus, despite warnings that it could have potentially fatal side effects.
U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, who is running for the U.S. Senate, said he doesn’t have COVID-19 but is taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative drug. His parents, siblings and wife also are taking the drug, a spokesman for Marshall said.
“I would encourage any person over the age of 65 or with an underlying medical condition to talk to their own physician about taking hydroxychloroquine and I’m relieved President Trump is taking it,” Marshall told The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the congressman’s use of the drug.
Trump said Monday that he has been taking the drug and a zinc supplement for more than a week. His decision comes despite guidance from health officials in his administration that the drug should be administered only in hospital or research settings.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month warned doctors not to prescribe hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus outside of hospitals or research settings because of reports of serious side effects, including irregular heart rhythms and death among patients. Preliminary results from a study done on coronavirus patients at U.S. veterans hospitals showed no benefit, casting more doubt on the drug’s efficacy during the pandemic.
Marshall, though, has defended the use of the drug, saying previously that “in many cases, patients have a lot to gain and little to lose if they consider taking it.”
In the U.S. Senate race, Marshall is still struggling to consolidate opponents of his main rival, immigration hardliner and former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. In a crowded GOP field, Marshall faces attacks from the right, with a political action committee for the small-government, free-market group Club for Growth planning to spend $2.2 million on anti-Marshall ads starting in mid-June.
Some Republicans also are watching the candidacy of Bob Hamilton, a former Kansas City-area plumbing business owner, who has been able to use personal funds to keep up with Marshall’s fundraising.
GOP candidates in the race have been stressing their loyalty to Trump. Kobach was the first prominent Kansas elected official to endorse Trump in 2016.