In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mehmet Oz – aka Dr. Oz — Repeatedly emailed senior Trump administration officials, urging them to push the ineffective malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 on the basis of sparse, patchy data from a now-disgraced French researcher.
Emails from the notorious celebrity doctor were first published in a report by the House of Representatives subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis on Wednesday. The report entitled “A “knife fight” with the FDA‘, detailed how the Trump administration has worked during the pandemic to undermine, pressure and bully the Food and Drug Administration.
In particular, it found out how the Trump White House has been pressuring the FDA to bend safety standards to allow COVID-19 vaccines to be released ahead of Election Day. It also revealed the persistent efforts and subterfuges of top Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro and adviser Steven Hatfill to pressure the FDA to support use of the debunked malaria drug. The report’s title comes from a direct quote from Hatfill that the White House was planning a “knife fight with the FDA” over hydroxychloroquine.
Both efforts were ultimately unsuccessful — the FDA didn’t approve any vaccines before the election, nor did it re-approve hydroxychloroquine after it became clear it wasn’t effective. But the government’s actions have caused lasting damage to the FDA, the country’s response to the pandemic, and public confidence, the report concludes.
“As today’s report makes clear, senior Trump administration officials have undermined public health experts in what they believed would politically benefit the former president — secretly plotting with known conspiracy theorists to dangerously advance a debunked coronavirus treatment, and bullied the FDA into changing their immunization guidelines and engaged in federal investigations into those who stood in their way,” select subcommittee chair Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) said in a press statement . “These attacks on our nation’s public health facilities have undermined the country’s response to the coronavirus — which is precisely why we must never again settle for leaders who prioritize politics over the safety of Americans.”
The role of Oz
But before Navarro and Hatfill spearheaded the effort and “worked from the shadows” to champion a junk COVID-19 drug, there was Dr. Oz, who was just as keen to promote the unproven treatment.
Oz, who has a long history of peddling unproven treatments and health fraudShe quickly jumped on the hydroxychloroquine bandwagon. days after the little dubious French study– Led by a now disgraced Microbiologist – suggested hydroxychloroquine was one 100 percent effective In treating COVID-19, Oz emailed Trump White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx and Trump’s son-in-law and Senior White House Advisor Jared Kushner, urging hydroxychloroquine.
On March 22, Oz Birx sent a series of emails She complained about a “coronavirus drug shortage” and urged them to expand access to hydroxychloroquine. He also claimed that the drug has “confirmed clinical benefits.” The next day, Oz emailed Kushner, and said Trump should “push academic centers to move faster” on hydroxychloroquine trials. Kushner replied, “What are you doing[sic] recommend speeding it up?”
In those emails, Oz mentioned plans to use his own money to conduct a clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine. Earlier this year, a representative from Oz Approved told the New York Post that Oz spent almost $9,000 of his money to buy more than 2,000 hydroxychloroquine tablets in 2020. He was reportedly willing to spend $250,000 to fund a clinical trial at Columbia University.
On March 28, Oz Birx emailed again about the French study. Birx forwarded his message to then-FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn with the note, “We should talk.” That same day, the FDA granted a controversial emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, allowing use against COVID-19.
In June, the FDA reversed the decision, sending Navarro and Hatfill on an unsuccessful mission to get hydroxychloroquine reapproved. And numerous studies have subsequently found the drug to be ineffective and potentially harmful for treating COVID-19 patients.
Oz, a Crudité fan who is now running as a Republican Senate candidate for Pennsylvania, eventually scrapped the idea of a clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine and reportedly donated the pills to an unnamed hospital.
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