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Doctors kept close eye on Trump's use of malaria drug

KEVIN FREKING
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APTOPIX Trump

President Donald Trump visits Saint John Paul II National Shrine with first lady Melania Trump, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House medical team kept a close eye on President Donald Trump's heart rhythms, including at least one electrocardiogram, to watch for potential side effects when he took a two-week course of a malaria drug to try to prevent the coronavirus, his doctor reported Wednesday.

“The President completed the regimen safely and without side effects,” Dr. Sean Conley wrote in a report on Trump's latest physical and his treatment with hydroxychloroquine.

Overall, Conley said, Trump showed little change in basic health measurements from 16 months ago. On the negative side, he gained a pound. But on the plus side, his cholesterol level continued to fall.

“The data indicates the President remains healthy," Conley concluded.

Trump recently took a two-week course of hydroxychloroquine after two White House staffers tested positive for COVID-19.

Conley said it was done in consultation with “appropriate care team members and close monitoring of the electrocardiogram (EKG)," indicating that doctors were looking for changes in his heartbeat because abnormal heart rhythms are one of the dangerous side effects that have been found in studies of the drug.

The drug proved ineffective for preventing COVID-19 in the first large, high-quality study to test it in people in close contact with someone with the disease. Results published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine show that hydroxychloroquine was no better than placebo pills at preventing illness from the coronavirus. The drug did not seem to cause serious harm, though -- about 40% on it had side effects, mostly mild stomach problems.

Trump has frequently has cited anecdotal reports and seemed determined to prove the naysayers wrong.

Trump's weight came in a 244 pounds. That gives him a Body Mass Index of 30.5, based on his 6-foot, 3-inch frame. An index rating of 30 is the level at which doctors consider someone to be obese. About 40 percent of Americans are obese.

Trump was evaluated twice for the physical, first in November 2019 and then in April. He has a resting heart rate of 63 beats per minute. A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute, and generally, a lower rate implies better cardiovascular fitness.

His blood pressure came in at 121 over 79. The American Heart Association says an elevated blood pressure range is when a reading for the upper number consistently ranges from 120-129 and less than 80 for the lower number. People with elevated blood pressure are likely to develop high blood pressure unless steps are taken to control the condition.

Trump has shown marked improvement in his cholesterol levels during his presidency, helped by medication. At his physical in January 2018, his total cholesterol was 223. In early 2019, the reading came in at 196. It now stands at 167. The president takes rosuvastatin to help lower his bad cholesterol, known as LDL, and to raise his good cholesterol, or HDL. Ideally, total cholesterol should be less than 200.

Trump also takes aspirin daily and finasteride, a drug to treat enlargement of the prostate and male pattern hair loss. Aspirin reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke in people at high risk for them.

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AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report.