President Donald Trump emphatically defended himself Tuesday against criticism from medical experts that his announced use of a malaria drug against the coronavirus could spark wide misuse by Americans of the unproven treatment with potentially fatal side effects.

Trump’s revelation a day earlier that he was taking hydroxychloroquine caught many in his administration by surprise and set off an urgent effort by officials to justify his action. But their attempt to address the concerns of health professionals was undercut by the president himself.

2:44Trump defends use of hydroxychloroquine

Trump defends use of hydroxychloroquine

He asserted without evidence that a study of veterans raising alarm about the drug was “false” and an “enemy statement,” even as his own government warned that the drug should be administered for COVID-19 only in a hospital or research setting.

“If you look at the one survey, the only bad survey, they were giving it to people that were in very bad shape,” Trump said. That was an apparent reference to a study of hundreds of patients treated by the Department of Veterans Affairs in which more of those in a group who were administered hydroxychloroquine died than among those who weren’t.

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