There has been some level disagreement publicly aired in the US between Trump/Navarro and Fauci on the use of hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19.

The president and his allies, however, have continued to champion the decades-old malaria drug as a possible medical remedy for Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, while senior health officials have warned repeatedly that the medicine requires further trials.

“The data are really just, at best, suggestive,” Fauci told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “There have been cases that show there may be an effect, and there are others to show there’s no effect. So I think, in terms of science, I don’t think we could definitively say it works.”

Responding to that assessment Monday, Navarro said he would let Fauci “speak for himself,” but added, “I would have two words for you: second opinion.”

Navarro, who is coordinating the administration’s efforts to purchase and distribute emergency supplies under the Defense Production Act, acknowledged that he was “not the arbiter” of the hydroxychloroquine debate. But he also insisted that there were “a lot of doctors out there who are on one side, and there’s a lot of doctors on the other side” of the issue. [...]

“I think history will judge who’s right on this debate,” Navarro said, “but I’d bet on President Trump’s intuition on this one because of all the doctors I’ve talked to and all the scientific papers that I’ve read.”

Has anything comparable happened in some other Western country in the present crisis, i.e. have non-health public officials pushed for medications that the public health officials have disagreed with, or have been very reserved about?

Since I'm bountying this now (which would make it impossible to close for a while except by mod action while the bounty is up), I'll just note here that I'm not asking this to bash Trump, but I'm genuinely interested if this kind of "desperate times call for desperate/emergency measures" has been reflected in approaches to medication (proposals) elsewhere. Because I know that there were (at one point and might even still be, albeit toned down) other disagreements on the approaches to the pandemic e.g. [controversial] plans to use "herd immunity" as a/the answer to the pandemic (particularly in the Netherlands and in the UK).

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    It's worth noting that since direct-to-consumer-advertising of pharmaceuticals is illegal in the EU (and much of the world outside the US), any such push by an official would probably have to be targeted towards health professionals rather than the general public, which may make it less likely.
    – Uri Granta
    Apr 9, 2020 at 21:07
  • Why western? Is the Czech Republic western? Or Austria? Or Russia?
    – Frank
    Apr 14, 2020 at 20:16
  • @Frank: because in Russia if Putin wakes up one day with some strange idea, everyone in government over there is likely to fall in line anyhow. Apr 15, 2020 at 2:03

2 Answers 2


So, depending on whether or not you consider Japan "Western" (which it apparently is "westernized" in many regards, but is an Asian country), something similar has happened before:

Doctors in Japan are using the same drug in clinical studies on coronavirus patients with mild to moderate symptoms, hoping it will prevent the virus from multiplying in patients.

But a Japanese health ministry source suggested the drug was not as effective in people with more severe symptoms. “We’ve given Avigan to 70 to 80 people, but it doesn’t seem to work that well when the virus has already multiplied,” the source told the Mainichi Shimbun.

However, there are some ways in which it differs from the situation in the U.S. For one, while it does seem some doctors in Japan are using it, the main of source of conflict is not government leaders saying the drug is okay with public health officials being skeptical. Rather, it is another country (namely, China) which is saying the drug is effective while Japan's own public health officials don't seem to be convinced.

If Japan doesn't count as a western country, there's also the example of France being skeptical of ibuprofen:

In a tweet Saturday, Health Minister Olivier Veran, who has worked as a neurologist, said that "taking anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, cortisone...) could be an aggravating factor of the infection. If you have a fever, take paracetamol. If you are already on anti-inflammatory drugs or in doubt, ask your doctor for advice," CNN reported.

The same day, the French government said "grave adverse effects" linked to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) -- the class of drugs that includes ibuprofen -- have "been identified with patients affected by COVID-19, in potential or confirmed cases."

This rose to criticism from some "health experts" (It's unclear if this is the international community here, or France's own experts here):

But some health experts criticized the French stance, noting that there is no publicly available evidence suggesting a link between ibuprofen and adverse effects of the coronavirus, CNN reported.

Though, again, this isn't exactly the same thing. But I thought I would mention because it is somewhat similar.

Spain is running trials, and that has drawn "skepticism from at least 1 doctor:

Dr. David Hardy, adjunct professor of medicine for the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, on expressed skepticism about study because it makes “a big jump” on the use of Truvada for HIV prevention to its use for COVID-19 prevention.

But this is not a public health official, this is a doctor that works for Johns Hopkins University, so it differs in that respect.

Overall, I would say it depends on your definition "comparable." If by comparable, you mean health departments being skeptical of a treatment, yet others disagree, then yes. That has clearly happened, even in western countries. However, if you are talking about politicians specifically saying a drug is okay, while their own health officials disagree with them, then no. At least, not that I have found so far as I haven't looked through every "Western Country."


There is some discussion in European countries which was proposed by medical professionals about using the medicine for treating Malaria to treat Coronavirus. The problem currently is in legislation, where European Medicines Agency, an EU institution, doesn't label drugs for treating malaria as ones eligible to be used for treating Coronavirus. One of the reasons for this as stated by the European Medicines Agency is lack of research showing results in treatment and also shortage of drugs. Usually, laws allow doctors to prescribe this medicine even if it's not labelled as being eligible for treating coronavirus.

You can read more about this for example here EU urges restraint with using malaria drugs to treat COVID-19 - DW

For specific mentions from public figures in the EU Coronavirus and chloroquine: Is there evidence it works? Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said "the UK is "conducting rapid clinical trials on anti-malarials" to see whether those drugs are useful or not.

  • (Not my downvote). That's a somewhat useful link in that it shows there's a discussion in the EU on that, but I don't see any politicians mentioned in there as (publicly) arguing for those drugs. Apr 12, 2020 at 21:45
  • @Fizz Updated to include specific politicians from western EU.
    – Ver
    Apr 13, 2020 at 22:25
  • @Patrick the UK is no longer a member of the EU.
    – CDJB
    Apr 14, 2020 at 11:14
  • @CDJB Sorry for that formulation, in question author asked about western countries in general.
    – Ver
    Apr 15, 2020 at 8:15

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