Report: Trump and associates have financial stake in potential coronavirus drug

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FREDERIC LEGRAND - COMEO, SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Frederic Legrand - COMEO, Shutterstock

On Sunday, Detroit's former health director Abdul El-Sayed criticized President Donald Trump's hawking of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential coronavirus treatment, saying that despite anecdotal evidence, the science just isn't there to back it up yet.

"WE JUST DON’T KNOW YET," El-Sayed tweeted. "ANY other answer is political spin — which has been the problem w/ the #COVID response all along."



Well, there is one other possible explanation why Trump's press briefings are starting to feel like a hydroxychloroquine infomercial. Follow the money.

According to a new report from The New York Times, one reason Trump could be so enthusiastic about hydroxychloroquine is because he and his associates would stand to profit from it if it proves to be a coronavirus treatment.



According to the report, Trump has a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, a brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine. As of last year, Trump's three family trusts each had investments in a mutual fund whose largest holding was in Sanofi. Sanofi's largest shareholders include Fisher Asset Management, an investment company run by Trump donor Ken Fisher, and Invesco, a fund previously run by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

And Chirag Patel, co-founder of Amneal Pharmaceuticals, a generic drugmaker that is preparing to manufacture hydroxychloroquine pills, is a member of Trump National Golf Course Bedminster in New Jersey and an occasional golfing buddy of Trump's, according to the report.

In a follow up report, The Washington Post pointed out that compared to his net worth, Trump's investments in Sanofi are negligible. "If you were worth $100,000, it would be like worrying about the nickel in your pocket," correspondent Philip Bump wrote. Then again, this is Trump we're talking about — the guy who Spy magazine famously pranked in the '90s by sending him increasingly smaller checks to see if he would cash them. Trump was one of only two people to cash a $0.13 check.

Hydroxychloroquine could very well be an effective treatment for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. But as of now, we don't know.

In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration initially told doctors not to prescribe the drug for coronavirus cases so as not to deprive it from non-COVID-19 patients who need it. Then, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency authorization that released the drug from its stockpiles, but warned that it "is not FDA-approved for treatment of COVID-19."

Detroit is now conducting the nation's first large-scale study of the drug and the coronavirus, asking 3,000 volunteer frontline hospital workers to take it to see if it works as a preventive measure.

Updated at 5:58 p.m.: This story was updated to include more information from
The Washington Post.

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