Trump and his associates stand to profit from an unproven treatment he promotes for COVID-19

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America elected a grifter, con man, carnival barker, real estate fraudster, pathological liar and thief president in 2016. Why should anyone be surprised that he has transitioned into snake oil salesman?

When Donald Trump Ignores Expert Opinion, And Again Promotes Use of Hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure for COVID-19, the first question every American should be asking is “Does one of Donald Trump’s companies or one of his idiot son-in-law Jared Kushner’s companies, or one of his close associates have a financial interest in promoting this unproven miracle cure?

Your first instinct would be correct: Donald Trump and his close associates do have a financial interest in hydroxychloroquine, and stand to personally benefit from promoting this drug as an unproven miracle cure for COVID-19, with deadly consequences for other people.

The New York Times reports, Trump’s Aggressive Advocacy of Malaria Drug for Treating Coronavirus Divides Medical Community:

President Trump made a rare appearance in the Situation Room on Sunday as his pandemic task force was meeting, determined to talk about the anti-malaria medicine that he has aggressively promoted lately as a treatment for the coronavirus.

Once again, according to a person briefed on the session, the experts warned against overselling a drug yet to be proved a safe remedy, particularly for heart patients. “Yes, the heart stuff,” Mr. Trump acknowledged. Then he headed out to the cameras to promote it anyway. “So what do I know?” he conceded to reporters at his daily briefing. “I’m not a doctor. But I have common sense.”

CNN adds, Heated disagreement breaks out in Situation Room over hydroxychloroquine:

[M]ultiple sources say it was mostly one-sided, as President Donald Trump’s top trade adviser Peter Navarro feuded with other officials over the drug’s unproven effectiveness to treat coronavirus.

Navarro had brought a stack of paperwork with him into the Situation Room on the drug, arguing it was proof that it could work to treat coronavirus, which Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, disagreed with because it was not data.

“What are you talking about?” Fauci asked — a question that set Navarro off… A source close to the task force said Fauci is not backing off his belief that hydroxychloroquine is not a proven treatment for coronavirus.

I’m assuming that Peter Navarro’s “research” was from his fictitious alter ego “Ron Vara,” something he has done frequently. (Ron Vara is an anagram of Navarro).

On Saturday, Trump went quite a bit further effectively using his White House platform to encourage Americans to take the medication. From the official transcript:

“What do you have to lose? In some cases, they’re in bad shape. What do you have to lose? It’s been out there for a long time, and I hope they use it…. I think people should — if it were me — in fact, I might do it anyway. I may take it. Okay? I may take it. And I’ll have to ask my doctors about that, but I may take it.”

Returning to the subject toward the end of Saturday’s briefing, the president doubled down on his message: “What do you have to lose? I’ll say it again: What do you have to lose? Take it. I really think they should take it. But it’s their choice and it’s their doctor’s choice, or the doctors in the hospital. But hydroxychloroquine — try it, if you’d like.”

At Sunday’s press conference, Trump blocked Dr. Anthony Fauci from answering question about the drug Trump is touting as a miracle cure:

Toward the end, a CNN reporter turned to Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, for his opinion on the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine with a sharper question: “What is the medical evidence?”

Standing at the microphone, Fauci opened his mouth — but before he could speak, the answer came out of Trump’s instead.

“Do you know how many times he’s answered that question?” Trump cut in. “Maybe 15.”

A tight smile stretched across Fauci’s face. His eyes, framed by a pair of wire-rimmed glasses, flicked quickly to Trump. He glanced back at the reporter, who was saying to the president, “The question is for the doctor. … He’s your medical expert, correct?”

Fauci’s smile, for just a moment, was all teeth now. Trump raised his finger sternly, telling the journalist, “You don’t have to ask the question,” and so Fauci didn’t answer it.

Back to The Times:

Day after day, the salesman turned president has encouraged coronavirus patients to try hydroxychloroquine with all of the enthusiasm of a [snake oil salesman]. The passing reference he makes to the possible dangers is usually overwhelmed by the full-throated endorsement. “What do you have to lose?” he asked five times on Sunday.

Bolstered by his trade adviser Peter Navarro aka Ron Vara, Accused ‘Quack’ Dr. Oz who appears frequently on Fox News, Larry Ellison of Oracle and Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor [“Giuliani said he has spoken directly to Trump ‘three or four times’ about a potential coronavirus treatment, describing to him the results of an initial small-scale study in France that suggested the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine may help treat covid-19”], Mr. Trump has seized on the drug as a miracle cure for the virus that has killed thousands and paralyzed American life. Along the way, he has prompted an international debate about a drug that many doctors in New York and elsewhere have been trying in desperation even without conclusive scientific studies.

Rudy Giuliani’s source is “Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, a self-described simple country doctor who has become a hit on conservative media after administering a cocktail of hydroxychloroquine, the antibiotic azithromycin and zinc sulfate.” (As it happs, Dr. Zelenko was born in Ukraine, and when they first spoke, Mr. Giuliani accidentally called him “Dr. Zelensky,” mixing up his name with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky). Wow.

About that French study which produced only anecdotal results: Slate reports, meet The Trumpian French Doctor Behind the Chloroquine Hype, and Politico reports, In France, controversial doctor stirs coronavirus debate.

More importantly, The Times reports:

The professional organization that published a positive French study cited by Mr. Trump’s allies changed its mind in recent days. The International Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy said, “The article does not meet the society’s expected standard.” Some hospitals in Sweden stopped providing hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus after reports of adverse side effects, according to Swedish news media.

* * *

If hydroxychloroquine becomes an accepted treatment, several pharmaceutical companies stand to profit, including shareholders and senior executives with connections to the president. Mr. Trump himself has a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine.

* * *

Some associates of Mr. Trump’s have financial interests in the issue. Sanofi’s largest shareholders include Fisher Asset Management, the investment company run by Ken Fisher, a major donor to Republicans, including Mr. Trump. A spokesman for Mr. Fisher declined to comment.

Another investor in both Sanofi and Mylan, another pharmaceutical firm, is Invesco, the fund previously run by Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary. Mr. Ross said in a statement Monday that he “was not aware that Invesco has any investments in companies producing” the drug, “nor do I have any involvement in the decision to explore this as a treatment.”

As of last year, Mr. Trump reported that his three family trusts each had investments in a Dodge & Cox mutual fund, whose largest holding was in Sanofi.

Ashleigh Koss, a Sanofi spokeswoman, said the company no longer sells or distributes Plaquenil in the United States, although it does sell it internationally.

Several generic drugmakers are gearing up to produce hydroxychloroquine pills, including Amneal Pharmaceuticals, whose co-founder Chirag Patel is a member of Trump National Golf Course Bedminster in New Jersey and has golfed with Mr. Trump at least twice since he became president, according to a person who saw them.

Mr. Patel, whose company is based in Bridgewater, N.J., did not respond to a request for comment. Amneal announced last month that it would increase production of the drug and donate millions of pills to New York and other states. Other generic drugmakers are ramping up production, including Mylan and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.

Roberto Mignone, a Teva board member, reached out to the team of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, through Nitin Saigal, who used to work for Mr. Mignone and is a friend of Mr. Kushner’s, according to people informed about the discussions.

Mr. Kushner’s team referred him to the White House task force and Mr. Mignone asked for help getting India to ease export restrictions, which have since been relaxed, allowing Teva to bring more pills into the United States. Mr. Mignone, who is also a vice chairman of NYU Langone Health, which is running a clinical study of hydroxychloroquine, confirmed on Monday that he has spoken with the administration about getting more medicine into the country.

Business Insider reports, India lifted its ban on the export of hydroxychloroquine — Trump’s unproven coronavirus ‘cure’ — hours after the president threatened ‘retaliation’ if it didn’t do so. India had implemented a partial ban on foreign exports of the drug since March 25, and a total ban since Saturday, to protect domestic stocks.

Trump’s snake oil promotion of this drug in the coronavirus task force press briefings, on Twitter and on Fox News has led to this:

The Food and Drug Administration, which has approved hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for malaria and lupus, issued an emergency order late last month allowing doctors to administer it to coronavirus patients if they saw fit. [It has not been approved as a treatment for COVID-19 as Trump has stated.] Mr. Trump said the federal government would distribute 29 million doses and that he had called Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India requesting more.

The same day, Laura Ingraham, a Fox host, visited Mr. Trump at the White House with two doctors who had been on her program promoting hydroxychloroquine, one of whom made a presentation on its virtues, according to an official, confirming a Washington Post report.

Dr. Fauci made his concern clear last week. “I think we’ve got to be careful that we don’t make that majestic leap to assume that this is a knockout drug,” he said on Friday on Fox News. “We still need to do the kinds of studies that definitively prove whether any intervention, not just this one, any intervention is truly safe and effective.”

* * *

Dr. Daniel H. Sterman, the critical care director at NYU Langone Health, said doctors there are using hydroxychloroquine, but data about its effectiveness remained “weak and unsubstantiated” pending the study. “We do not know whether our patients are benefiting from hydroxychloroquine treatment at the present time,” he said.

New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs its public hospitals, is advising but not requiring doctors to use hydroxychloroquine based on a trial showing a decreased cough and fever with mild side effects in two patients, Dr. Mitchell Katz, who oversees the hospital system, said by email on Monday.

Dr. Roy M. Gulick, the chief of infectious diseases at Weill Cornell Medicine, said hydroxychloroquine was given on a case-by-case basis. “We explain the pros and cons and explain that we don’t know if it works or not,” he said.

Doctors at Northwell Health and Mount Sinai Health System are using it as well. At the Mount Sinai South Nassau County branch on Long Island, doctors have employed a regimen of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin “pretty much since day one” with mixed results, said Dr. Adhi Sharma, its chief medical officer.

“We’ve been throwing the kitchen sink at these patients,” he said. “I can’t tell whether someone got better on their own or because of the medication.”

As NBC reports, Stampede for Unproven Coronavirus Drug Harms Patients With Other Serious Diseases:

In the days that followed President Donald Trump’s first mention of hydroxychloroquine — calling it a possible “game-changer” in the fight against coronavirus— lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients received notices from their healthcare providers and pharmacies that they will no longer get that medication, due to anticipated short supplies.

The Lupus Foundation of America estimates more than 1.5 million Americans suffer from the autoimmune disorder. An additional 1.3 million Americans suffer from RA. Hydroxychloroquine helps control their painful joint inflammation and skin rashes, and also reduces pain and swelling.

* * *

In his Saturday news conference, Trump referred to a study he said found some lupus patients can better fight the coronavirus, most likely because they use hydroxychloroquine.

But the Lupus Foundation of America has stated the opposite, warning that lupus patients, in fact, have a “higher risk” of serious complications from COVID-19, due to their weakened immune system.

[T]he increased demand for hydroxychloroquine has prompted some pharmacists to warn that some doctors are “stockpiling” the drug [for their lupus patients].

When Trump says “What do you have to lose? I’ll say it again: What do you have to lose? Take it. I really think [you] should take it”, you could lose your life. Forbes reports, Researchers Warn Possible Coronavirus Treatment Hydroxychloroquine May Be Toxic When Combined With Diabetes Drug:

Researchers have warned that hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and chloroquine (CQ), two similar drugs repeatedly touted by President Trump to be promising treatments for COVID-19, may be toxic when combined with a common diabetes drug.

The new study was published online on scientific pre-print server BioRxiv and shows that 30-40% of mice treated with a combination of HCQ or CQ and diabetes drug metformin, died. Treatment with the same dose of either drug alone had no effect on the survival of the mice.

And this is what happens when a snake oil salesman sells a miracle cure to the fearful: Arizona man dies, wife ill after taking drug touted as virus treatment: “Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure”:

A Phoenix-area man has died and his wife was in critical condition after the couple took chloroquine phosphate, CBS affiliate KPHO reported. The additive used to clean fish tanks that is also found in an anti-malaria medication that’s been touted by President Donald Trump as a treatment for COVID-19.

“I saw it sitting on the back shelf and thought, ‘Hey, isn’t that the stuff they’re talking about on TV?'” the woman told NBC.

“Trump kept saying it was basically pretty much a cure,” she said, adding her advice for people would be, “Don’t take anything. Don’t believe anything. Don’t believe anything that the president says and his people … call your doctor.”

If a doctor or pharmaceutical company were promoting unproven miracle cures that were resulting in death or injury to consumers, they would be prosecuted for consumer fraud and reckless endangerment. “Dr. Trump” should be no exception. This sociopath is a threat to public health and his snake oil show needs to be shut down like any other dangerous snake oil salesman.




4 COMMENTS

  1. Tonight I flipped over the Hannity to do a sanity check, and yep, he’s still not sane.

    I don’t do that often, it makes my brain cry.

    But he had Trump on, and they spent a good five minutes literally pitching the HCQ snake oil.

    Both of them.

    I couldn’t take more than about 10 minutes.

    We have an actual snake oil salesman in the White House.

    Oh, man, America, I miss you so much.

  2. Yes, no one doubts that if hydroxychloroquine becomes an acceptable treatment, some pharmaceutical companies will profit, including shareholders and senior executives with ties to Trump.

  3. Politico reports, “Trump’s ‘Hail Mary’ drug push rattles his health team”, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/04/06/trump-drug-coronavirus-hydroxychloroquine-170543

    (excerpts)

    “The nation’s top infectious-disease expert, Anthony Fauci, has repeatedly warned in public and private that no definitive evidence exists about the drug. Behind the scenes, career health officials have raised even stronger warnings about the risk to some Americans’ heart health and other complications, but been warned not to publicly speak out and potentially contradict Trump, said two officials.”

    “The president and many of his economic, policy and political advisers within the White House are trying to overrule scientific experts who increasingly worry that touting the drugs could harm Americans and cost valuable time to research other treatments.”

  4. Excellent article. Anyone in their right mind knew there was some connection with money and Trump for this drug. The way he has pushed and hawked it has been revealing. Thanks.

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