According to newly revealed emails, Dr. Mehmet Oz offered to “personally recruit patients” to test hydroxychloroquine as COVID-19 treatment drug.
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Emails show how Dr. Mehmet Oz directly promoted an anti-malaria drug for Covid to the White House.
He emailed two senior advisers, asking to push for the drug before clinical trials were complete.
Clinical studies said the drug, hydroxychloroquine, is not effective as a COVID-19 treatment.
Recently released emails from 2020 show how Dr. Mehmet Oz, now the Republican Senate nominee in Pennsylvania, promoted an anti-malaria drug as a COVID-19 treatment directly to the Trump White House in the early stages of the pandemic.
The emails were unveiled on Wednesday in a report from the Select House Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis. They contain messages from Oz to senior White House advisers, including Jared Kushner, former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, and Deborah Birx, who was the administration’s coronavirus response coordinator at the time.
Oz had emailed Birx and Kushner separately in March 2020 — a time when the US was still finding its footing in its fight against the virus — urging them to push hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 before clinical trials were complete.
In his message to Birx, Oz asked for the US to start patient trials for the drug as early as possible and requested that US doctors be allowed to start administering it as a Covid treatment if trials weren’t possible.
“We cannot hide behind study protocols if we are not allowed to proceed,” he wrote.
“I want to push brave Americans to join trials on my show tomorrow, but cannot without a game plan for accessing drugs,” he added. Oz wrote that he would “personally recruit patients and pay for a trial,” but was having trouble finding the anti-malaria pills.
He cited the testimony of French microbiologist Dr. Didier Raoult, who said the drug was effective in clearing 24 patients of COVID in a test that wasn’t randomized or peer-reviewed.
The same drug was also championed by Trump at around the same time as a treatment for the coronavirus, even though there was no clinical evidence that replicated the results reported by Raoult.
Hydroxychloroquine had been one of many drugs that researchers were racing to test amid the pandemic, but multiple studies later found it doesn’t work as a COVID-19 treatment. In March 2021, the World Health Organization also strongly recommended against using of the drug to prevent Covid infections.
Clinical trials a ‘plodding process’: Oz
On the same day that Oz emailed Birx, he also emailed Kushner promoting a faster rollout of hydroxychloroquine to combat the pandemic.
He noted that the Trump administration and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, wanted to conduct randomized trials for the drug before declaring it a COVID-19 treatment.
However, Oz wrote that while these clinical trials were ongoing, the White House “could immediately authorize physicians” to use a drug mixture involving hydroxychloroquine and another drug, azithromycin, to treat Covid patients.
“In addition, you should outline that 130 million hydroxychloroquine pills are coming into the market which can treat 5-10 million people and offer an accurate time-table for additional supply to slow down the coronavirus,” Oz wrote to Kushner.
When Kushner responded saying that clinical trials for the drug were starting that week, Oz replied that such studies would be “a plodding process which will take a month before we have results.”
He encouraged Kushner to make trials for hydroxychloroquine a “national priority and insist on immediate enrollment.”
“It has been almost a week since we learned of the French data and over a month since the Chinese data and we still have no patients in trials,” he wrote. “Doctors and nurses are already struggling to find pills for off-label use, but at least we have a potential pandemic solution at our fingertips.”
Kushner replied: “What do u recommend to speed it up?”
A week after Oz emailed the two advisers, he sent Birx another message saying that early studies on hydroxychloroquine showed that the drug “was safe and results are better than expected.”
The email thread shows that Birx forwarded the email to Stephen Hahn, who was the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration at the time. “We should talk,” her email read.
The messages from Oz are part of a larger report from the House Committee that accused senior officials in the Trump administration of pressuring the FDA to authorize unproven treatments for emergency use against COVID-19.
Hydroxychloroquine had been one of the main drugs that Trump advisers pushed to get reinstated for emergency authorization, per the report.
In June, Birx testified before the committee investigating the coronavirus crisis that people were communicating with the Trump dangerous ideas about hydroxychloroquine “on a daily basis.”
Oz did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.