U.S. President Donald Trump is turning to popular TV doctor of Turkish origin, Mehmet Öz, for advice on the coronavirus pandemic in a move that is raising eyebrows for some of the public health professionals on the president’s coronavirus task force, the Daily Beast said.
It is Öz’s touting of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, that got the attention of Trump, it said, with the U.S. president telling his aides that he was interested in what the celebrity doctor had to say on the pandemic, which has claimed the lives of over 10,000 people in the country.
As of Monday, there are 347,000 confirmed COVID-19 infections in the United States, where the pandemic has taken the heaviest social and financial toll in the country’s living memory.
Top U.S. officials, including Seema Verma of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, have privately spoken with the controversial doctor in recent days, the Daily Beast said.
Verma has agreed to look into the effects of hydroxychloroquine via an analysis of national health data, Öz said in an interview broadcast on Fox TV last week.
An unnamed senior administration official who works closely with the coronavirus task force said Öz’s involvement in the public health matters over the pandemic was “very annoying,” it said, and that efforts against the pandemic “shouldn’t be a celebrity showcase.”
Trump has called hydroxychloroquine a “game changer,” while the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci called for caution that the country does not “make that majestic leap to assume that this is a knockout drug,” it said.
“What do you have to lose?” Trump had said as he endorsed the use of the drug. “I may take it,” he added.
Öz and Trump’s endorsement of the drug have led to national shortages for lupus and rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, and at least one man dying after ingesting chloroquine phosphate, mistaking the fish-tank cleanser for the drug’s active chemical.
One of the doctor’s appearances on Fox News was on a virtual town-hall event where he spoke directly to Trump and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment, and Öz “is still in the midst of a media blitz that has focused on swinging by some of the shows that Trump watches most obsessively,” the Daily Beast said.
Öz’s relationship with Trump began years before took office, as the celebrity doctor and the then-reality star and businessman had been running in the same social circles in Manhattan. During his campaign in 2016, Trump appeared on Öz’s TV show to discuss his health, too.
Öz has been described as a “quack” by many, including three Mayo Clinic scientists who wrote an article for the American Medical Association’s journal of ethics in 2017.
The doctor has touted unverified weight loss remedies as miracle drugs, and has had “an obsession with genetically modified foods and the false theory that they are linked to cancer,” it said.