Dr. Oz is linked to hydroxychloroquine companies as he supports Covid treatment.
Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz has financial ties to at least two pharmaceutical companies that supply hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug he has proposed as a possible treatment for Covid-19.
Oz, a doctor and TV show veteran who faces Democrat John Fetterman in the race for an open seat in the Pennsylvania Senate, owns with his wife at least $615,000 in Thermo Fisher Scientific stock, according to its financial information. Thermo Fisher Scientific website lists hydroxychloroquine sulfate as one of the available products. It’s unclear when Oz and his wife bought the stock or if they owned it, as Oz promoted hydroxychloroquine as a Covid treatment early in the pandemic.
According to the disclosure, Oz and his wife also own $15,001 to $50,000 worth of McKesson Corporation stock. The company labels and distributes hydroxychloroquine sulfate, according at the FDA. It’s also unclear when they bought McKesson shares.
Hydroxychloroquine sulfate is an antimalarial drug commonly known as hydroxychloroquine. according to the Food and Drug Administration. Doctors across the country, thanks in part to the support of former President Donald Trump and conservative media figures, have offered the drug to patients as a treatment for Covid despite its dubious effectiveness against the virus.
Oz’s financial ties to the drug’s manufacturer and distributor, and his promotion of it as a potential cure for Covid, raise questions about what he would benefit from its increased use during the pandemic. If he wins the Senate election, he could also face a conflict of interest as Congress grapples with the still-evolving coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement answering questions from CNBC about Oz’s dealings with companies that make or distribute hydroxychloroquine, including when he and his wife bought shares in Thermo Fisher Scientific, Oz’s campaign spokeswoman Brittany Janick did not touch on the candidate’s financial assets.
“At the start of the pandemic, Dr. Mehmet Oz spoke to health experts around the world who were looking at hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as effective options for treating terminally ill COVID patients. He offered to fund a clinical trial at Columbia University,” she said.
FDA approves hydroxychloroquine for malaria but warned that “it has not been proven to be safe and effective for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19.”.”
Oz took bold steps early in the pandemic to promote its use as a treatment. In 2020, he called on Trump administration officials to support a study he intended to fund at Columbia University Medical Center on the effects of hydroxychloroquine on Covid-19 patients, according to emails obtained and released by the House Special Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.
Oz also has ties to a third company that said it has removed hydroxychloroquine from its US portfolio.
Sanofi, which is headquartered in France and previously made hydroxychloroquine, has supported Oz’s nonprofit HealthCorps for years, according to the group’s annual disclosure reports. Between 2009 and 2018, Sanofi was listed as either a sponsor or in-kind sponsor of an Oz-funded group that positions itself as committed to helping teens with their health and well-being. As of 2013, Sanofi is listed as one of the group’s “school sponsors”. The HealthCorps website says the school sponsor must donate $100,000 to be eligible.
In April 2020, Sanofi announced that it would donate 100 million doses of hydroxychloroquine to 50 countries as studies evaluate the drug’s effectiveness in treating Covid-19.
A Sanofi spokesperson told CNBC that the company had nothing to do with Oz’s comments about Covid-19 or hydroxychloroquine. He explained that Sanofi phased out hydroxychloroquine from its US portfolio in 2013 and was investigating the drug’s use early in the Covid pandemic as a possible way to fight the virus. Once it was found to be ineffective against Covid-19, the company stopped working on it.
The spokesperson also explained that the company’s last financial contribution to HealthCorps was made in 2011.
Oz’s ties to companies that would benefit from increased use of hydroxychloroquine could pose problems for the Republican if he wins a Senate seat. Kedrick Payne, an ethics attorney at the Campaign Law Center, told CNBC in an email that Oz could decide to drop the companies if he beats Fetterman in November.
“If elected, he may face harsh condemnation, because the rules of ethics may prohibit him from engaging in this activity. Senators cannot use their position to promote any goods or services that benefit them financially,” Payne said. “Oz can voluntarily withdraw from promotions if he is elected, or stop promoting anything related to his promotions.”
A spokesman for Thermo Fisher Scientific declined to comment. A spokesperson for McKesson did not respond to a request for comment prior to publication.
Since he launched his campaign late last year, Oz has downplayed warnings from the FDA and other experts against using hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid. He suggested political animosity towards Trump, who supported the drug as a treatment, and Oz in the Senate elections, motivated criticism of the drug as a means of combating Covid.
“Now, let me say this very quickly, I really don’t know if this works or not, we still haven’t been able to prove if it works. [hydroxychloroquine] it works or it doesn’t, and it’s a shame because we should have known by now whether a cheap 70-year-old drug used by a billion people works or not,” Oz said at a campaign rally earlier this year. “But we don’t know.” t, which is a problem in itself. However, I mentioned it, and then President Trump mentioned it at a press conference, and suddenly the whole world hated hydroxychloroquine, not testing it, not knowing about it.”
Before he started his campaign, Oz was more outspoken in favor of hydroxychloroquine. During Fox News interview in March 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Oz said “hydroxychloroquine is playing a role” in fighting the virus. An on-screen image during an interview with Oz called an antimalarial drug “promising” as a treatment option for Covid-19.
Oz also sought help from the White House to start research on hydroxychloroquine, which he hoped to fund at Columbia University, where he was once vice chairman of the surgical department. He has since said that the study never started.
The Pennsylvania nominee’s correspondence with White House officials was released by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis last month. AT March 2020 email Oz told Trump’s former White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx that he would recruit patients and pay for the hydroxychloroquine trial himself.
Also in March 2020 Oz sent by email Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner said “we should make the completion of this study a national priority and push for immediate enrollment,” according to correspondence obtained and made public by a House committee. Kushner responded to Oz the same day, “What do you recommend to speed it up?”
The New York Post reports that Oz spent $8800 at the time on hydroxychloroquine tablets for research and offered to spend $250,000.
Oz, while campaigning for a seat in the Pennsylvania Senate, accused then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo of stopping the study after he actually prohibited antimalarial drug as treatment for Covid.
Oz’s financial connections could become a bigger problem for him if he wins the Pennsylvania race, one of the few contests that will decide which party will control the Senate next year. The Real Clear Politics poll average shows Fetterman leading Oz by almost 7 percentage points.
Shareholding in Congress is facing increased scrutiny. Some lawmakers have proposed that Congress ban certain stock transactions, which would require lawmakers to put assets into a blind trust or dispose of them entirely.
Business Insider has identified at least 71 legislators who violated the Knowledge Dealing Stop Act of Congress or the STOCK Act. The law is intended to prevent members of Congress from trading stocks based on insider information obtained as a result of their work as legislators.
Yet members of Congress have seen little to no repercussions from lucrative stock deals.