Dr Oz has ties to hydroxychloroquine companies as he backs Covid treatment

Republican Senate candidate from Pennsylvania, Dr Mehmet Oz, has financial ties to at least two pharmaceutical companies that supply hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug he has touted as a possible Covid-19 treatment.

Oz, a veteran doctor and television host who faces Democrat John Fetterman in the race for the open Pennsylvania Senate seat, has with his wife at least $615,000 in Thermo Fisher Scientific stock, according to its financial disclosure. Thermo Fisher Scientific website lists hydroxychloroquine sulfate as one of its available products. It’s unclear when Oz and his wife bought the stock, or if they owned it because Oz promoted hydroxychloroquine as a Covid treatment early in the pandemic.

Oz and his wife also own between $15,001 and $50,000 worth of McKesson Corporation stock, according to the disclosure. The company labels and distributes hydroxychloroquine sulfate, according at the FDA. It is also not known when they bought McKesson shares.

Hydroxychloroquine sulfate is the antimalarial drug commonly known as hydroxychloroquine, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Doctors across the country, in part spurred on by endorsements from former President Donald Trump and conservative media figures, have offered the drug to patients as a Covid treatment despite its questionable effectiveness against the virus.

Oz’s financial ties to a producer and distributor of the drug, and its promotion as a potential Covid treatment, raise questions about what it stood to gain from its wider use during the pandemic. If he wins the Senate election, he could also face conflicts of interest as Congress grapples with an ever-evolving coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement responding to CNBC’s questions about Oz’s dealings with companies that manufacture or distribute hydroxychloroquine, including when he and his wife bought the shares of Thermo Fisher Scientific, the campaign spokeswoman ‘Oz, Brittany Yanick, did not address the contestant’s financial holdings.

“At the start of the pandemic, Dr. Mehmet Oz spoke to health experts around the world who considered hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin viable treatment options for desperately ill COVID patients. He offered to fund the clinical trial at Columbia University,” she said.

The FDA has approved hydroxychloroquine to fight malaria, but warned that it “has not been shown to be safe and effective in treating or preventing COVID-19.”

Oz took bold steps early in the pandemic to promote its use as a treatment. He urged Trump administration officials in 2020 to support a study he aimed to fund at Columbia University Medical Center on the effect of hydroxychloroquine on Covid-19 patients, according to emails obtained and published by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

Oz also has ties to a third company that claims to have removed hydroxychloroquine from its US portfolio.

Sanofi, which is headquartered in France and previously made hydroxychloroquine, has for years supported Oz nonprofit HealthCorps, according to the group’s annual disclosure reports. Between 2009 and 2018, Sanofi was listed as a sponsor or in-kind support of the Oz-funded group, which bills itself as aiming to help teens with their health and wellbeing. In 2013, Sanofi was listed as one of the group’s “school sponsors”. The HealthCorps website says a school sponsor must donate $100,000 to qualify.

Sanofi announced in April 2020 that it would donate 100 million doses of hydroxychloroquine to 50 countries around the world as studies assessed the drug’s effectiveness in treating Covid-19.

A Sanofi spokesperson told CNBC the company was not involved in Oz’s comments about Covid-19 or hydroxychloroquine. He explained that Sanofi removed hydroxychloroquine from its US portfolio in 2013 and investigated the use of the drug at the start of the Covid pandemic as a possible means of combating the virus. Once it was deemed ineffective against Covid-19, the company’s work on it ceased.

The spokesperson also explained that the company’s last financial contribution to HealthCorps was in 2011. The company’s rep later corrected himself in a follow-up email to CNBC after this story was published and said that 2013 was, in fact, the last year that Sanofi gave a financial donation to HealthCorps.

Oz’s ties to companies that would benefit from wider use of hydroxychloroquine could pose problems for the Republican if he wins the Senate seat. Kedric Payne, an ethics attorney at the Campaign Legal Center, told CNBC in an email that Oz may choose to divest the companies if he beats Fetterman in November.

“He could have a rude awakening if elected because ethics rules could prohibit him from doing this. Senators cannot use their position to promote goods or services that benefit them financially,” Payne said. “Oz could voluntarily relinquish the stock if elected or stop promoting anything related to his stock.”

A Thermo Fisher Scientific spokesperson declined to comment. A representative for McKesson did not return a request for comment ahead of publication.

Since launching his campaign late last year, Oz has played down warnings from the FDA and other experts against using hydroxychloroquine as a Covid treatment. He suggested political animosity against Trump, who endorsed the drug as a treatment, and Oz in the Senate election, prompted criticism of the drug as a way to fight Covid.

“Now let me say very quickly, I really don’t know if this works or not, we still haven’t been able to prove if this [hydroxychloroquine] works or not, which is a shame, because we should have known by now whether a 70-year-old cheap drug used by a billion people works or not,” Oz said at a campaign rally earlier this year. t, which is a problem in itself. Yet, I mentioned it and then President Trump mentioned it at a press conference, and all of a sudden the whole world hated hydroxychloroquine without testing it, without knowing it.”

Before launching his campaign, Oz more explicitly defended hydroxychloroquine. During a Fox News interview in March 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Oz said “hydroxychloroquine plays a role” in fighting the virus. An on-screen graphic during the Oz interview called the antimalarial drug “promising” as a Covid-19 treatment option.

Oz also asked for help from the White House to start the hydroxychloroquine study he hoped to fund at Columbia, where he was once vice chairman of the department of surgery. He has since said the study never started.

The Pennsylvania candidate’s communications with White House officials were released by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis last month. In an email from March 2020 To former Trump White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx, Oz said he would recruit patients and pay for the hydroxychloroquine trial himself.

Also in March 2020, Oz sent by email According to Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, “we must make the completion of this study a national priority and insist on immediate enrollment,” according to correspondence obtained and made public by the House committee. Kushner replied to Oz the same day, “What do you recommend to speed it up?”

The New York Post reports that Oz spent $8,800 at that time on hydroxychloroquine tablets for the study and offered to spend $250,000.

Oz, while campaigning for the Pennsylvania Senate seat, blamed then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for halting the study after actually banned the antimalarial drug as a Covid treatment.

Oz’s financial ties could become a bigger issue for him if he wins the race in Pennsylvania, one of the few contests that will decide which party controls the Senate next year. A Real Clear Politics polling average shows Fetterman leading Oz by nearly 7 percentage points.

Shareholding in Congress is coming under increased scrutiny. Some lawmakers have proposed a ban on individual stock trades in Congress, which would require lawmakers to place assets in a blind trust or assign them entirely.

Business Insider has identified at least 71 lawmakers who violated the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or STOCK Act. The law aims to prevent members of Congress from trading stocks based on inside information obtained through their work as lawmakers.

However, members of Congress have generally faced little repercussion on lucrative stock trading.

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