Donald Trump ‘wants FDA to approve oleander plant extract as a drug to cure Covid-19’ after it was promoted by Ben Carson and MyPillow founder – despite no proof that it works
- Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and MyPillow boss Mike Lindell, a big Trump supporter, have urged Trump to look at the botanical extract
- Meeting arranged by the pair with a director at company developing the product
- Andrew Whitney, of Phoenix Biotechnology, claims he is ‘100%’ sure it’s a cure
- But there is no peer-reviewed study to support the claim
- Lindell says that in the meeting, Trump ‘basically said the FDA should approve it’
- Senior administration official expressed deep concern that Carson and Lindell were ‘pushing a dubious product at the highest levels’ during the pandemic
Alarmed health officials say Donald Trump is pushing for FDA approval of an oleander plant extract to cure coronavirus.
The President has been urged to consider the benefits of oleandrin 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 pushing a dubious product at the highest levels should give Americans no comfort at night about their health and safety during a raging pandemic.’
Trump’s latest gambit comes after his optimistic overtures about intravenous disinfectant, UV light and hydroxychloroquine. None of which have been shown to be cures for COVID-19.
Donald Trump (left) sat down with a director of Phoenix Biotechnology after the potential benefits of its oleander plant product were impressed upon him by Ben Carson (right) and Mike Lindell
The oleander plant is known for its white and pink flowers and is found across the US, particularly in California
OLEANDER PLANT AND COVID-19
Oleandrin, the extract of the oleander plant being touted as a cure for coronavirus, has been used in various scientific trials over the last 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 which increases the output of the heart and increases the rate of its contractions.
Antiviral effects of cardiac glycosides have been shown against a range of viruses, including Herpes, Ebola, influenza and chikungunya virus.
In July, the University of Texas published a paper which described its effects on the kidney cells of monkeys infected by coronavirus.
The paper said that their tests showed ‘the strong inhibitory profile of oleandrin in greatly reducing infectious virus production.’
Professor Sharon Lewin, an antiviral drugs expert at the University of Melbourne, said that a lot more work needed to be done.
She told Axios: ‘Oleandrin looks to have antiviral activity at high doses in a test tube model. You’d certainly want to see more work done on this before even contemplating a human trial.’
The FDA even approved use of hydroxychloroquine in March after firm lobbying by Trump – who was taking the anti-malarial – before withdrawing approval in June, citing the ‘risk of heart rhythm problems.’
Oleandrin – an extract of the plant known for its pink and white flowers – was shown to inhibit the coronavirus in the kidneys of monkeys, in a July study by University of Texas at Galveston.
Lindell claims that at an Oval Office meeting that month, Trump essentially said: ‘The FDA should be approving it.’
The study by UT has not been peer-reviewed and one of the authors is Robert Newman, a director at Phoenix Biotechnology – the company developing oleandrin.
Phoenix Biotech’s Vice Chairman, Andrew Whitney, told Axios that oleandrin had been tested on humans but the results of that had not yet been published.
It was through the MyPillow boss Lindell that Whitney gained an Oval Office meeting with the president, first reported by the Washington Post.
Carson also attended the meeting along with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and a lawyer.
Asked why Carson was backing the unproven plant extract, a spokesman told Axios: ‘The Task Force is looking at a plethora of therapeutics to fight COVID-19.
‘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.’
Carson is a leading expert in pediatric neurosurgery, but is not regarded as 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 huge supporter of Trump (pictured: speaking outside the White House during a coronavirus briefing in March)
He says that the FDA has been too slow in granting approval for a clinical trial, which he believes should happen immediately.
This response by the FDA has reassured some officials within the Trump administration, according to Axios, who worry about the president’s support for the experimental oleandrin.
Whitney said: ‘Now, there are all sorts of lawyers who would tell me I can’t say things like that, because you know you need to have years of studies, and you need to have this, that, and the other, and so forth, but as an American with a right of free expression, I’m telling you, I’ve seen it with my own eyes.’