FiercePharmaPolitics—After hydroxychloroquine, Trump sets sights on another unproven COVID-19 treatment: report

White House
President Donald Trump and others discussed oleandrin during an Oval Office meeting last month, according to Axios.(uschools/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

Welcome to the FiercePharma political roundup, where each Monday we’ll highlight developments in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere that could affect drug pricing and how drugmakers operate. 

After the debate over hydroxychloroquine caused political and scientific fractures in the U.S., President Donald Trump is reportedly eyeing another “miracle” therapy without backing evidence.

The president and his allies have flagged oleandrin, an extract of the oleander plant, as a dietary supplement—or even an FDA-approved option—to treat or prevent COVID-19, Axios reports.  

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and MyPillow founder Mike Lindell have promoted the extract, according to the report, and at an Oval Office meeting last month, Trump also embraced oleandrin. 

There's no human or animal data supporting oleandrin as a COVID-therapy, Axios said, though a lab test indicated action against the virus. Lindell recently purchased a financial stake in Phoenix Biotechnology, which produces the extract, and helped set up a July meeting between Trump and a board member, Andrew Whitney, Axios said.

“This is the most amazing miracle thing I've ever seen in my life, so I went all in,” Lindell told Axios. The Washington Post reported about the behind-the-scenes oleandrin push earlier this month.  

In a laboratory study in July, the extract inhibited the novel coronavirus in monkey kidney cells, according to Axios. But an expert told the publication that more work would need to be done “before even contemplating a human trial." 

RELATED: It's the end of road for hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 as Novartis, NIH and WHO pull out of trials 

Still, Trump and others want to see the extract made available to Americans, according to Axios. At a July meeting, Trump "basically" said the "FDA should be approving it," Lindell told Axios, paraphrasing the president.

Whitney and others are looking at several routes for bringing oleandrin to the market, Axios reports. An FDA approval as a drug would require testing and data, but Whitney also told the publication he's eyeing marketing the extract as a dietary supplement, which wouldn't need clinical trials before it hit the market. 

The oleandrin push comes after a months-long saga over hydroxychloroquine. Trump and his allies got behind the decades-old drug early despite limited evidence in COVID-19, and the FDA quickly gave the drug an emergency use authorization. But after controlled tests showed no benefit for COVID-19 patients, the agency yanked the authorization.