Oz Urged Trump Administration to Push Hydroxychloroquine Research, Emails Show


  • Dr. Mehmet Oz encouraged the Trump White House to push hydroxychloroquine research, emails show.
  • Oz, the Republican candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania, sent clips of his show to Jared Kushner.
  • Numerous studies have found hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment for COVID-19.

Dr. Mehmet Oz’s Democratic rival, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, said it’s “actually not surprising” that, according to a new report, Oz pushed former President Donald Trump’s administration for research on an unproven COVID-19 treatment.

In the early weeks of the pandemic, former President Donald Trump embraced hydroxychloroquine, a treatment for malaria, as a possible treatment for COVID-19. Trump described hydroxychloroquine, along with another drug, as potentially “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.”

Behind the scenes, as well on Fox News and his own daytime television show, Dr. Mehmet Oz was encouraging optimism about the drug despite there being little evidence at the time that it worked. Since then, numerous studies have shown is not an effective treatment for COVID-19.

A new report, from House Select Committee on the Coronavirus, shows that Oz — now the Republican candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania — was emailing top White House officials to encourage the former president’s interest, as The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday.

“Here is a clip of my show,” Oz wrote to White House aide Jared Kushner on March 23, 2020, including a link to an interview with a French doctor who advocated that “all patients” should “immediately” begin taking hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, though he noted that “we should simultaneously start clinical trials.”

Screenshot of email between Jared Kushner and Dr. Mehmet Oz

Correspondence between Dr. Mehmet Oz and former White House aide Jared Kushner.

Screenshot/House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis

Five days later, Oz emailed Dr. Deborah Birx, then the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, to share that he had read a “pre-print” of a study from the same French physician analyzing the drug combination. “The French will not use a control group due to ethical concerns,” he noted, “but the treatment appears safe and results are better than expected.”

Rachel Tripp, a spokesperson for Oz, defended his early embrace of unproven treatments.

“At the outset of the pandemic, Dr. Mehmet Oz spoke with health experts worldwide who were seeing hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as viable treatment options for desperately ill COVID patients and he offered to fund a clinical trial at Columbia University,” she said.

Oz’s advocacy was previously reported by The New York Times, which in April 2020 noted that he “was in touch with Mr. Trump’s advisers about expediting approval to use the drug for the coronavirus.”

The report released this week details the Trump White House’s efforts to pressure the FDA to approve hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19; the former administration also stockpiled some 66 million doses of malaria drugs.

Studies have since found that hydroxychloroquine does not help those infected with the coronavirus. In May 2020, for example, a Columbia University study of nearly 1,400 people with moderate to severe COVID-19 found that those who received the drug “fared no better than patients who did not receive the drug,” per a news release.

At the time he was publicly and privately boosting hydroxychloroquine, critics accused Oz, then a member of the White House Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition, of pushing the drug. “The fact that he has the uncritical ear of the president only magnifies any potential harm,” Timothy Caufield, chair of health law and policy at the University of Alberta, wrote in an April 2020 op-ed for NBC News.

Oz did temper his enthusiasm with calls for more research. But, as the Inquirer noted in its report, he has denied the findings. “Even today, two years later, we don’t know if it works. It’s never been allowed to be studied,” he falsely claimed earlier this year.

Oz’s promotion of dubious treatments, including weight-loss supplements, has emerged as an issue in his Senate campaign. At a press conference earlier this month, three doctors criticized him for at times promoting quack medicine on his television show, in particular green coffee bean extract, which he described as a “magic weight-loss cure.”

In that same vein, in response to the House report the Fetterman campaign said in a statement to Insider, “That’s….actually not surprising. That’s what he’s been doing on his TV show for two decades — cashing in on the trust of his viewers and causing real harm.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com


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