Trump allies push for FDA to approve another untested Covid treatment - extract from toxic oleander plant

Director of biotechnology company behind extract claims studies on humans have happened and are currently under peer review

Graig Graziosi
Monday 17 August 2020 22:04
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Donald Trump is reportedly being asked to push the US Food and Drug Administration to approve another drug to be used in Covid-19 treatments, despite there being no evidence that it would be effective.

The president is pushing for extract from the oleander plant to be used in treating the coronavirus.

In July, Mike Lindell, a major Trump supporter and the founder and CEO of MyPillow, a pillow company that advertises widely on Fox News, joined Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and a biotechnology company director to meet with Mr Trump and discuss the botanical extract.

According to Axios, Mr Lindell has a financial stake in Phoenix Biotechnology, the company that develops the oleander extract Oleandrin.

Mr Lindell told Axios that Mr Trump said "The FDA should be approving [oleander extract]."

Oleander is extremely toxic, and was the method of choice for Sri Lankans during a suicide epidemic in the early 2000's.

While the plant has been used as a treatment for cardiac issues, asthma, diabetes, cancer and epilepsy.

Andrew Whitney, the director of Phoenix Biotechnology, told Axios that the extract had been tested on humans to determine its ability to fight Covid-19. He said that the study associated with the experiment has not been published yet, and that the lab study was being peer reviewed.

He claimed that the extract can cure the virus in two days.

There are few clinical trials or studies supporting claims that oleander is an effective treatment for any condition, and none that exist to suggest it would be a helpful coronavirus treatment.

When asked why the director of the HUD was promoting unproven botanical treatments for the coronavirus, a spokesperson for Mr Carson pointed out that he has been on the White House's Coronavirus Task Force since its inception, and that the task force is examining a number of possible treatments.

"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," the statement said.

Mr Carson is an accomplished neurosurgeon, but has little experience treating or researching infectious diseases.

Mr Trump confirmed Monday that he is aware of the treatment. Reporters asked him if it was a topic of conversation in his circles.

"We'll look at it, we'll look at it, we're looking at a lot of different things. I will say the FDA has been great. They are very close," Mr Trump said. "We're very close to a vaccine. Very close to a therapeutic, I have heard that name mentioned, we'll find out."

If Mr Trump is - as Mr Lindell claims - is supportive of the extract, it would be the second questionable Covid-19 treatment he's publicly backed.

The president was a major proponent of the drug hydroxychloroquine, which is generally used as an anti-malarial drug.

Not unlike his visit from Mr Lindell, Mr Trump was turned on to hydroxychloroquine by Fox News host Laura Ingraham and a group of doctors during a meeting at the White House.

Mr Trump pushed hard for the drug's adoption as a treatment for coronavirus. Several studies conducted by medical institutions around the world found the drug's side-effects included possible heart damage and that it was overall ineffective at treating the virus.

There have been anecdotal and some very limited reported instances of the drug being effective, but more study is needed. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still maintains there is no known cure or treatment for the coronavirus.

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