Alarmed health officials say Donald Trump is pushing for FDA approval of an oleander extract to cure the coronavirus.
The president was urged to consider the benefits of oleander 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 promoting a questionable product at the highest level should not reassure Americans at night about their health and safety. during a raging pandemic. “
Trump’s latest gambit comes after his optimistic overtures on intravenous disinfectant, UV light and hydroxychloroquine. None of them have been proven to be a cure for COVID-19.
Donald Trump (left) spoke with a director at Phoenix Biotechnology after Ben Carson (right) and Mike Lindell impressed him with the potential benefits of his oleander plant product.
Oleander is known for its white and pink flowers and is found in the United States, particularly California
OLEANDER factory AND COVID-19
Oleandrin, oleander extract touted as a remedy for coronavirus, has been used in various scientific trials over the past decade.
In one study it was shown to inhibit the growth of human pancreatic cancer and in another as a “novel inhibitor of HIV infectivity”.
Oleandrin is a cardiac glycoside – an organic compound that increases the performance of the heart and increases the rate of its contractions.
The antiviral effects of cardiac glycosides have been demonstrated against a range of viruses, including herpes, Ebola virus, influenza, and chikungunya.
In July, the University of Texas published an article describing its effects on kidney cells from monkeys infected with coronavirus.
The paper said their tests showed “the strong inhibitory profile of oleandrin in dramatically reducing infectious virus production.”
Professor Sharon Lewin, an expert on antiviral drugs at the University of Melbourne, said there was still a long way to go.
She told Axios: “Oleandrin appears to have antiviral activity at high doses in a test tube model. You would certainly want to see more work done on this before you even consider a human trial.
The FDA even approved the use of hydroxychloroquine in March after strong lobbying from Trump – who was on the antimalarial – before withdrawing his approval in June, citing “risk of heart rhythm problems.”
Oleandrin – an extract from the plant known for its pink and white flowers – has been shown to inhibit the coronavirus in the kidneys of monkeys, in a study done in July by the University of Texas at Galveston.
Lindell claims that during an Oval Office meeting that month, Trump basically said, “The FDA should approve it. “
The UT study has not been peer reviewed and one of the authors is Robert Newman, director of Phoenix Biotechnology – the company developing oleandrin.
Phoenix Biotech vice president Andrew Whitney told Axios that oleandrin has been tested in humans but the results have not yet been released.
It was through MyPillow boss Lindell that Whitney secured an Oval Office meeting with the president, first reported by The Washington Post.
Carson also attended the meeting with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and a lawyer.
Asked why Carson was supporting the unproven plant extract, a spokesperson told Axios: “The task force is studying a plethora of therapeutics to fight COVID-19.
“To suggest that Secretary Carson, who is a world-renowned expert in the medical field, should not be involved is not only absurd but unnecessary in our collective fight to eradicate the pandemic.
Carson is a leading expert in pediatric neurosurgery, but is not considered 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.
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell is a strong supporter of Trump (pictured: speaking outside the White House during a coronavirus briefing in March)
He says the FDA has been too slow to grant approval for a clinical trial, which he says should take place immediately.
This FDA response has reassured some officials in the Trump administration, according to Axios, who are concerned about the president’s support for experimental oleander.
Whitney said: “Now there are all kinds of lawyers who would tell me I can’t say things like that, because you know you have to have years of schooling, and you have to have this, that. and so forth, and so forth, but as an American with free speech, I’m telling you, I’ve seen it with my own eyes.