Like a snake oil salesman, Donald Trump loses no opportunity to pitch the potential wonders of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a miraculous treatment for the coronavirus. The question is why.
Could it be that he and his big money supporters and his political pals stand to cash in?
According to The New York Times, Trump has a small stake in Sanofi, the French company that makes Plaquenil, the brand name version of hydroxychloroquine. But that's just the beginning of what could be a major conflict of interest.
That's because, as The Times said, "If hydroxychloroquine becomes an accepted treatment, several pharmaceutical companies stand to profit, including shareholders and senior executives with connections to the president."
The Times reported that Sanofi's largest shareholders include a mutual fund company run by Ken Fisher, a major Republican donor. As of last year, Trump's three family trusts had investments in a mutual fund whose largest holding was Sanofi. And, the report said, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had ties to the company.
Moreover, revealed the Times, one of the generic drug companies that are preparing to produce hydroxychloroquine pills was co-founded by a Trump golfing buddy, Chirag Patel. Nothing like jumping on an opportunity, right, especially when you can have the president as your infomercial salesman?
Could that be the reason Trump keeps pushing the drug in his daily coronavirus briefings, despite the advice of Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government's top infectious disease specialist and other actual health experts?
Could it simply come down to greed, like just about everything else when Donald J. Trump is involved? Could it be that?
However, in addition to profit opportunities, desperation can be a powerful motive.
Politico pointed out April 6, "The rush to focus on unproven drugs also comes after months of lost opportunities to contain the spread of the outbreak. 'There'd be less focus on [hydroxychloroquine] now if we had planned better then,' said one official, who added that the drug is seen by some career scientists as a 'Hail Mary' effort to find a Covid-19 cure." The article quoted a Republican close to the White House saying the president "thinks that it's the drug that's going to get everyone back to work."
Of course, that is a key to Trump's hopes for reelection. If the economy is in a deep recession with millions out of work, he can kiss reelection goodbye.
Meanwhile, however, in true Trump bullying fashion, Politico reported that administration officials have been warned not to contradict Trump regarding hydroxychloroquine:
Behind the scenes, career health officials have raised even stronger warnings (than Fauci's) about the risk to some Americans' heart health and other complications, but been warned not to publicly speak out and potentially contradict Trump, said two officials.
During his infomercial coronavirus briefings, Trump keeps asking "What do you have to lose?"
“There could be negative side effects. There could be deaths,” said American Medical Association President Dr. Patrice Harris in an interview with CNN. “This is a new virus, and so we should not be promoting any medication or drug for any disease that has not been proven and approved by the FDA.”
Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency room physician and Brown University researcher, agreed.
“This medication has major side effects including paranoia, hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, suppression of your blood counts so that you become more susceptible to infections. It can cause severe cardiac arrhythmias that can even cause death,” she said.
“They are not common side effects, but they are common enough that this should not be taken willy-nilly. It is not like water, it is not harmless, and it may have major side effects.”
Trump apparently could care less, as long and he and his friends can turn a profit and he can avoid defeat on November 3.