When I was much younger, a radio personality named Paul Harvey had a feature on his newscast (or whatever it was) called “The Rest of the Story.” He would begin with a report of some sort, there would be a commercial break, and he would then return and conclude with “The Rest of the Story.” Usually, it was something that shone a rather different light on what had gone before.
So what is the Rest of the Story behind Trump’s incessant hawking of hydroxychloroquine–his insistence that it represents a “cure,” and that people “have nothing to lose” by trying it?
The Guardian recently published a well-resourced explanation of the multiple flaws in the French study that Trump and others latched onto. Dr. Fauci–one of the few remaining competent persons in this bizarre administration–has repeatedly said there is no probative evidence that it works.
Worse, people ingesting it based on Trump’s representations have died, and people who do need it for auto-immune diseases are increasingly unable to get their prescriptions filled. For them, it’s lifesaving, so this is a huge problem.
It’s easy enough to chalk up Trump’s embrace of this fantasy to the mental illness that has characterized his performance for the past three years– his need to believe (and have others believe) that he is all-knowing, his need to convince his cult that he is in control and doing a good job–coupled with his abysmal ignorance.
But the rest of the story is in a report first published in the New York Times, and picked up by other outlets.
President Donald Trump has a “small financial interest” in the maker of an anti-malarial drug that he has been touting as a “game changer” in treating coronavirus, according to The New York Times. Over the past two weeks, Trump and his Fox News allies have aggressively promoted hydroxychloroquine as a potential cure, despite top infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and others urging caution and noting that there was not enough evidence of the drug’s efficacy.
The Times reports the president’s family trusts all have investments in a mutual fund whose largest holding is Sanofi, the manufacturer of Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine. Associates of the president, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, have also run funds that hold investments in the pharmaceutical firm.
Other reports have reminded us that right after the 2016 election, Novartis, another major manufacturer of the drug, paid Trump’s now-incarcerated former personal attorney Michael Cohen more than $1 million for “access” to Trump.
The Times article noted that Trump has hyped hydroxychloroquine “with all of the enthusiasm of a real estate developer,” repeatedly asking “What do you have to lose?”
Apologists for the administration have excused the enthusiastic promotion as an effort to “provide hope” at a difficult time; others have suggested that more scientifically-valid studies might yet show the drug’s usefulness. But as the Times reported,
The professional organization that published a positive French study cited by Mr. Trump’s allies changed its mind in recent days. The International Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy said, “The article does not meet the society’s expected standard.” Some hospitals in Sweden stopped providing hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus after reports of adverse side effects, according to Swedish news media.
According to the Times, the Administration is continuing to push hydroxychloroquine, and to order large quantities of it, despite the absence of properly-conducted studies suggesting its effectiveness. Trump has been quoted as saying it would be wrong to wait for the kind of study Dr. Fauci wanted. “We don’t have time,” the president said. “We don’t have two hours because there are people dying right now.”
Evidently, the people dying as a result of the President’s misinformation are unimportant.
It would be bad enough if this misinformation was just added evidence of Trump’s manifest stupidity, but it certainly looks like the financial incentive is “the rest of the story.”