Following the latest Donald Trump-but-not-FDA-approved COVID-19 “cure,” Anderson Cooper is taking issue with the powers that be who are peddling a drug called Oleandrin. And he’s not being shy about his feelings on the subject.
Cooper’s criticism came after accusations against Trump surfaced for pushing the Food and Drug Administration to approve Oleandrin, despite there being little to no peer-reviewed studies proving it’s an effective treatment for humans. In an interview with Mike Lindell, a Trump backer and the CEO of the company MyPillow, Cooper confronted him for peddling an unproven cure. Lindell reportedly promoted the product to Trump during a meeting at the Oval Office in July. Coincidentally, Lindell just so happens to have a financial stake in the company developing Oleandrin, Phoenix Biotechnology, Inc. and stands to profit if the drug is approved.
Cooper opened the discussion with Lindell by asking if it is “morally” right for him to promote an unknown supplement given that he stands to profit from its sale. “You don’t have a medical background. You’re not a scientist,” Cooper said, not hiding his suspicions. “Yet you’re claiming this substance, which has not been studied in any meaningful way, can cure COVID.”
Lindell began his pitch by citing a 2016 published study supposedly conducted with 1,000 people; however, Cooper was quick to point out a key detail – there is no published study. Employing a classic debate technique, Cooper simply asked for proof that these studies Lindell was referencing actually exist. When that didn’t work, Lindell fired back, “You’re just misconstrued because the media is trying to take away this amazing cure that works for everyone.”
While Cooper’s approach remained direct, eliciting quite a flustered response from Lindell, perhaps the most eviscerating question the host asked was, “How do you sleep at night?”
Anderson Cooper tears into the MyPillow guy for pushing unproven coronavirus therapeutic as a "miracle" cure:
"You have no medical background. You are not a scientist… You are now on the board and going to make money… How are you different than a snake oil salesman?" pic.twitter.com/6cQIn1FYpA
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) August 18, 2020
Lindell himself claimed to take the supplement. “It’s an absolute miracle. I take it every day. I don’t get the virus,” he told Minnesota NBC affiliate, KTTC. “You can’t get it once you take it. It’s just an oil, you put it under your tongue. It’s an extract.” He is also the chairman of the Minnesota Trump campaign and, according to CNN, makes frequent appearances on Trump’s behalf — none of which was lost on the interviewer.
But Cooper’s strategic take down of the CEO proved that these tactics will not absolve the country of dealing with the current nature of our pandemic. And this is just the latest of entrepreneurs to enthusiastically pitch unvetted products to Trump in the hopes that he likes it and encourages FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn to speed up the approval process. In an interview with Axios, Lindell said Trump “basically said:…’The FDA would be approving it.’” According to the Washington Post, Lindell helped arrange a meeting between Trump and Andrew Whitney, who works for Phoenix Biotechnology, Inc. Despite reportedly encouraging the FDA to look into it, Trump denies attempting to influence the agency’s process in any way.
Currently, there are no published or reviewed studies on the drug. Whitney also said Oleandrin has been tested on humans specifically in relation to COVID-19, but the study is still unpublished, according to Axios. A lab study is also reportedly in the process of being peer-reviewed.
The substance itself is cause for concern. Oleandrin is extracted from the plant Nerium oleander. In its natural state, raw oleander is highly toxic and potentially fatal if consumed. The plant Oleandrin is derived from is highly toxic, according to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center website. Even consuming a single Nerium oleander leaf can kill you. Side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, low blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, low body temperature, respiratory paralysis, coma, and of course death.
Given how unproven – and potentially fatal – this treatment is, it is incredibly irresponsible of Trump to promote it — an injustice which Anderson Cooper took it upon himself to course correct. And that’s what Cooper was really coming down on: the fact that Trump is backing an unpredictable, experimental treatment derived from the extract of a highly toxic plant because his friend who runs a pillow company has a financial stake in the company developing it. Yes, okay.
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