House panel slams Trump’s COVID response; report mentions the first role of Oz | New
Dr. Mehmet Oz’s advocacy for the drug hydroxychloroquine at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is cited in a new congressional report that accuses former President Donald Trump’s administration of pressuring the Food and Drug Administration to ‘it endorses unproven treatments and vaccines.
The report released Wednesday said the Trump White House intervened with the FDA by pressing the agency to authorize the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine despite no evidence of its effectiveness against COVID-19. At first, the pressure came in part at the behest of Oz, the doctor and talk show host who is now the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania.
Oz’s emails detailed in the report demonstrate the direct line he and other conservative television personalities had with senior White House officials from the early days of the pandemic.
His inclusion in the report, written by a panel of mostly Democrats investigating the coronavirus pandemic, comes less than 80 days from a key Senate race and could provide ammunition for Democrats who have already sought to attack him for questionable medical advice.
The report describes how, in March 2020, Oz sent three emails to senior White House officials — including Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser — urging them to request studies of the drug. At the time, medical professionals and the government were desperate for COVID treatment and early data suggested it might help. But Oz continued to tout the drug’s potential until last spring on the campaign trail, long after several large studies found it ineffective against COVID.
“At the start of the pandemic, Dr. Mehmet Oz spoke to health experts around the world who considered hydroxychloroquine…viable treatment options for desperately ill COVID patients and offered to fund a trial. clinic at Columbia University,” said Rachel Tripp, Oz’s Senior Communications Advisor.
Oz’s actions are contained in one paragraph of the 42-page report. The report focuses primarily on the Trump administration’s lobbying campaign for vaccines and treatments such as hydroxychloroquine, which was developed to treat malaria and is also approved to treat lupus. The drug was generic, and therefore cheap and readily available.
Oz’s promotion of hydroxychloroquine is well documented. He publicly defended it in TV appearances in 2020 and he mentioned the drug on the campaign trail as evidence of what he sees as a failed response to the virus, prompting him to come forward in the Senate.
The Trump administration’s pressure on the FDA was also widely publicized in 2020. But the panel’s report, chaired by U.S. Representative Jim Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina, goes into much more detail, describing a surge in the White House to investigate agency commissioner Stephen Hahn and Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health’s infectious disease chief. (Republicans renewed their calls to investigate Fauci when he announced this month that he would step down in December.)
The FDA authorized hydroxychloroquine for emergency use on March 28, 2020, six days after Oz’s first email to the White House – only to revoke that authorization less than three months later, citing a lack of evidence that it worked and a slight risk of side effects, such as an irregular heartbeat. Yet over the summer and early fall, senior Trump administration officials pushed agency officials to reauthorize the drug, emails and recordings show.
Oz frequently spoke favorably of the drug on his TV show and in interviews in 2020. He bought the drug thousands of dollars to run a clinical trial that never moved forward, something he blamed on the New York governor. of the time, Andrew Cuomo, who banned clinical trials of the drug, as well as its prescription.
At a March campaign event in West Chester, Oz explained how promising hydroxychloroquine was. He called the FDA’s rejection of the drug part of an overzealous response to COVID-19.
“President Trump mentioned it. It was dead in the water,” Oz said of the drug at the event in March. “The media hated it so much they didn’t want it to work. They rooted against hydroxychloroquine. Oz added, erroneously: “Even today, two years later, we don’t know if it works. He was never allowed to study it.
Oz has come under fire in the past for offering misleading or sometimes false medical advice on his popular television program, “The Dr. Oz Show.” At a “Real Doctors Against Oz” event hosted by Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s Senate campaign earlier this month, doctors who support Fetterman slammed Oz for advocating hydroxychloroquine.
Oz has often said on the campaign trail that he believes the government’s response to COVID-19 unfairly limits personal freedoms and, in some cases, is an overreaction to the severity of the virus.