Alarmed health officials say Donald Trump is pushing for FDA approval of an oleander plant extract to cure coronavirus.
The President has been urged to consider the benefits of oleandrin by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and MyPillow founder and CEO Mike Lindell, a huge Trump fan.
A White House official told Axios: ‘The involvement of the Secretary of HUD and MyPillow.com in pushing a dubious product at the highest levels should give Americans no comfort at night about their health and safety during a raging pandemic.’
Trump’s latest gambit comes after his optimistic overtures about intravenous disinfectant, UV light and hydroxychloroquine. None of which have been shown to be cures for COVID-19.
The FDA even approved use of hydroxychloroquine in March after firm lobbying by Trump – who was taking the anti-malarial – before withdrawing approval in June, citing the ‘risk of heart rhythm problems.’
Oleandrin – an extract of the plant known for its pink and white flowers – was shown to inhibit the coronavirus in the kidneys of monkeys, in a July study by University of Texas at Galveston.
Lindell claims that at an Oval Office meeting that month, Trump essentially said: ‘The FDA should be approving it.’
The study by UT has not been peer-reviewed and one of the authors is Robert Newman, a director at Phoenix Biotechnology – the company developing oleandrin.
Phoenix Biotech’s Vice Chairman, Andrew Whitney, told Axios that oleandrin had been tested on humans but the results of that had not yet been published.
It was through the MyPillow boss Lindell that Whitney gained an Oval Office meeting with the president, first reported by the Washington Post.
Carson also attended the meeting along with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and a lawyer.
Asked why Carson was backing the unproven plant extract, a spokesman told Axios: ‘The Task Force is looking at a plethora of therapeutics to fight COVID-19.
‘To suggest that Secretary Carson, who is a world-renowned expert in the medical field, shouldn’t be involved is not only absurd but unhelpful in our collective fight to eradicate the pandemic.’
Carson is a leading expert in pediatric neurosurgery, but is not regarded as such in the fields of antiviral drugs or infectious diseases.
Whitney told Axios he was still ‘100%’ behind the claim that oleandrin is a cure for the virus.
He says that the FDA has been too slow in granting approval for a clinical trial, which he believes should happen immediately.
This response by the FDA has reassured some officials within the Trump administration, according to Axios, who worry about the president’s support for the experimental oleandrin.
Whitney said: ‘Now, there are all sorts of lawyers who would tell me I can’t say things like that, because you know you need to have years of studies, and you need to have this, that, and the other, and so forth, but as an American with a right of free expression, I’m telling you, I’ve seen it with my own eyes.’