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 a result of calculated political interest or of 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, and in turn, what direction he was giving to federal agencies.

The Food and Drug Administration withdrew its emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine in June, leaving more than 65 million doses “stranded in the federal stockpile.” Meanwhile, millions continue to pin hope on the development of a coronavirus vaccine, and multiple drug companies are working to create one. Trump is pushing health officials to speed up the timeline for vaccine approval, with many experts concerned the aggressive schedule — dubbed Operation Warp Speed — could come at the expense of safety and effectiveness.

Before such remedies are available, it’s essential that the public know how the administration intends to review and distribute any potential treatment or vaccine, 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 or vaccines. We’re also looking into the administration’s reported interest in securing exclusive rights to any vaccine developed by a German pharmaceutical company called CureVac.

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