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Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany Chides Chris Cuomo For Using Quinine; He Called Donald Trump’s Hydroxychloroquine Claim “A Beautiful Distraction”

Deadline logo Deadline 5/20/2020 Ted Johnson

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany accused CNN anchor Chris Cuomo of taking a “less safe” version of hydroxychloroquine even though he “mocked” President Donald Trump’s advocacy of the drug.

Trump said this week that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventative treatment for the coronavirus. That drew criticism, as the drug is the subject of an FDA warning that it should not be used outside of a hospital setting or clinical trial because of the risk of heart problems.

Cuomo revealed last month that he had the coronavirus, and he has described his recovery process as he has continued to anchor Cuomo PrimeTime. His wife, Cristina, wrote about his protocol on the website she founded, Purist, and described homeopathic treatments that included “potentized quinine (OXO); it’s derived from the nontoxic bark of Peruvian-grown quinine plants.” She described it as a “natural antibiotic” that was among an extensive regimen for her husband. She also was diagnosed with coronavirus and wrote about her own recovery.

At the briefing, McEnany chided a number of media figures, before singling out Cuomo.

“I have seen a lot of apoplectic coverage of hydroxychloroquine,” she told reporters. “You had Jimmy Kimmel saying the president is ‘trying to kill himself’ by taking it. You Joe Scarborough saying ‘this will kill you.’ Neil Cavuto saying, ‘what have you got to lose? One thing you have to lose are lives.’ And you had Chris Cuomo saying ‘the president knows that hydroxychloroquine is not supported by science. He knows it has been flagged by his own people and he has been using it.’ Well, Cuomo mocked the president for this.”

She then added, “Hydroxychloroquine of course is an FDA approved medication with a long proven track record for safety, and it turns out that Chris Cuomo took a less safe version of it called quinine which the FDA removed from the market in 2006 because of its serious side effects including death. So really interesting to have that criticism of the president.”

She also cited a quote that Cuomo’s brother, New York governor Andrew Cuomo, made in March, in which he said that he was an “optimist” and “hopeful about the drugs and that’s why we’ll try it here in New York as soon as we get it.” In April, though, he said that New York’s trials delivered inconclusive results.

A CNN spokesperson did not immediately have a response to McEnany.

Quinine has been used for centuries as an antimalarial treatment.

While there are links between hydroxychloroquine and quinine, there are also significant differences. As Kim Walker, Cassandra Quave and Nataly Olivia A Canales wrote in the non-profit research site The Conversation in March, “Although chloroquine was inspired by the antimalarial activity of quinine, its chemical structure (and pharmacological properties) are quite different from the natural compounds found in cinchona bark.”

The purpose of their article was to outline how the use of cinchona bark, which contains quinine, is unproven.

They wrote, “The benefits, if any, of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19 are still not fully understood. Cinchona bark does not contain either of these compounds, and the alkaloids in the bark bear no relation to them. Likewise, there is no evidence of cinchona being able to prevent or treat COVID-19.” She also described serious side effects and noted that the FDA pulled quinine pills for the treatment of leg cramps off the market in 2006.

On her website, Cristina Cuomo wrote of consulting with Dr. Linda Lancaster, who specializes in homeopathy, and that “doctors are finding that quinine potentially slows the breakdown of iron from hemoglobin and the resulting oxidative stress. OXO is an oxygenating formula that works on the liver, and in turn, on the blood that passes through the liver.”

Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he would finish his use of hydroxychloroquine “in a day or two.”

On Cuomo PrimeTime on Monday, Cuomo said of Trump and hydroxychloroquine, “I don’t even know if he’s taking it, by the way. He’s got a letter from his doctor saying that is why he prescribed it.” He called it “all a beautiful distraction.”

Cuomo also said that Trump, in advocating for the use of hydroxychloroquine, is a “winning argument for him” because he’s been able to put the Democrats in the position of being the “party of no.”

“Now, why did he do this? Who cares why? Because it works.”

But Cuomo also made a distinction between using hydroxychloroquine as a preventative treatment and for use of those who already have been diagnosed with coronavirus. “I have not heard it prescribed prophylactically” Dr. Sanjay Gupta told him. “There has been a lot of discussion about this. There is no evidence … to use this prophylactically.” He said that there are studies being done to look at it for health care workers who have had significant exposure.

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