April 8, 2020
For days, rumors have been rampant on social media—speculating that President Donald Trump is recommending (nay, hyping) the use of hydroxychloroquine as a potential cure for COVID-19 because he has invested in the company that manufactures the drug. Now, The New York Times confirms the scuttlebutt.
In fact, the Times reports, the president has a “small financial interest” in the maker of the anti-malarial drug that he has been touting as a “game changer” in treating coronavirus.
The news outlet notes that the president’s family trusts all have investments in a mutual fund whose largest holding is Sanofi, the Paris, France-based manufacturer of Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine.
Associates of the president, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, also have run funds that hold investments in the pharmaceutical firm.
Thus, it is a little less confounding that, over the past two weeks, Trump and his Fox News allies have aggressively promoted hydroxychloroquine as a potential coronavirus cure—despite strong pushback from top infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and others urging caution and noting that there currently is not enough evidence of the drug’s efficacy.
A case in point: President Trump made a rare appearance in the Situation Room on Sunday, April 5, 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,” 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.”
Again and again, the president has made a passing reference to the dangerous side effects of the unproven drug, followed by a full-throated endorsement. “What do you have to lose?” he asked five times on Sunday.
Along the way, he has prompted an international debate about a drug that many doctors in New York and elsewhere have been trying on patients in desperation— even without conclusive scientific studies.
But Trump continues to push, the Times reports: At his briefing after the meeting, he said it was wrong to wait for the kind of study Dr. Fauci wanted. “We don’t have time,” the president said. “We don’t have two hours because there are people dying right now.”
Research contact: @nytimes