Promotion of Covid-19 Treatments and Communications with Drug Companies

President Trump’s dubious and dangerous touting of unproven Covid-19 treatments raised serious questions about how — and why — the White House might promote certain medications. And as the world waits for a coronavirus vaccine, we’re keeping an eye on how drug manufacturers and other special interests might be influencing the administration’s response.
Pennsylvania Commonwealth microbiologist Kerry Pollard performs a manual extraction of the coronavirus inside the extraction lab at the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories on Friday, March 6, 2020.

In the spring, President Donald Trump repeatedly promoted the use of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid-19, despite the lack of evidence of its effectiveness and its potentially dangerous side effects. Whether the result of calculated political interest or simple wishful thinking, Trump’s boosting of the drug (along with his dubious scientific pronouncements) led to serious questions about whose advice he was heeding. Alarm grew after the Food and Drug Administration’s March emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine, and after later reporting revealed that officials at the Department of Health and Human Services had attempted to delay CDC reports discussing the dangers of this drug.

In June, The FDA withdrew its emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine, leaving more than 65 million doses “stranded in the federal stockpile.” Then in August, the FDA came under fire when it approved convalescent plasma as an emergency treatment, again paralleling Trump’s stated beliefs. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn faced criticism for using a misleading statistic to promote the use of this treatment, and a statement from the National Institutes of Health even said that no reliable trial had proven the treatment’s efficacy. 

It’s essential that the public know how the administration is reviewing and distributing any potential treatment and whether they will be affordable to those who need them. American Oversight is investigating the Trump administration’s negotiations with drug companies, and has filed multiple requests for communications with the pharmaceutical industry as well as for agency and White House communications about coronavirus treatments.

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