(Reuters) – Prescriptions for two malaria drugs surged by more than 46 times on the day that U.S. President Donald Trump touted his opinion about their effectiveness in the coronavirus fight during a March briefing, the New York Times reported on Saturday. https://nyti.ms/2S9W1D3

“I think it could be something really incredible,” Trump said on March 19, adding that the two drugs had shown “very, very encouraging results” in treating the virus but that more study was needed, the report quoted Trump as saying.

By that evening, first-time prescriptions of the drugs — chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine — flooded into retail pharmacies at more than 46 times the rate of the average weekday, according to a New York Times analysis of prescription data, the report said.

The 32,000 prescriptions came from a broad range of doctors, including rheumatologists, cardiologists, dermatologists, psychiatrists and podiatrists, according to the report.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, has no approved treatment or vaccine. But hydroxychloroquine has been widely used in an attempt to alter the course of COVID-19 based on anecdotal reports that it may provide some benefit.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday cautioned against the use of hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 patients even as Trump, who has touted it as a “game changer,” advocated for an additional review.

The FDA has allowed healthcare providers to use the drugs for COVID-19 through its emergency use authorization, but has not approved them to treat the disease.

(Reporting by Suzanne Barlyn; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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