Social media users expressed concern and slammed the U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday for reportedly seeking to push an oleander plant extract as a cure for the coronavirus. The fear and worry came after Trump highly promoted hydroxychloroquine as Covid-19 drug only to be discredited by healthcare experts.
At an Oval Office meeting in July, the president showed enthusiasm over getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the oleandrin as a potential coronavirus cure, Axios reported on Sunday. In the meeting, the Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and MyPillow.com founder and CEO Mike Lindell spoke highly of oleandrin's benefits, according to the report.
Lindell, a staunch Trump supporter, owned stakes in Phoenix Biotechnology – the company that was developing the oleandrin medicine. He told Axios that Trump "basically said: ... 'The FDA should be approving it.'"
Andrew Whitney, Phoenix Biotech's vice chairman told Axios that oleandrin was "100 percent" cure for coronavirus and was tested on humans. However, the results of those studies were not published, he said. He reportedly told the Trump administration that oleandrin cured coronavirus in two days.
Following the development, social media users voiced concern over Trump's reported push to get approval from the FDA for the oleandrin. They drew parallels to his promotion of hydroxychloroquine earlier this year as the coronavirus treatment. At the time, he urged the FDA to authorize its use in treating Covid-19 patients. However, the agency revoked the authorization in June stating that the drug led to "risk of heart rhythm problems" in patients.
What is oleandrin?
Oleandrin is the extract of the oleander plant that is widely found in northern Africa, the eastern Mediterranean basin, and Southeast Asia. Though the plant is known to be toxic, it has substances akin to the active chemical found in digoxin – a heart medication.
Scientists have conducted trials over the past decade to find out oleandrin's benefits. One study showed that the botanical extract repressed the growth of human pancreatic cancer and another study found that it reduced the HIV infectivity.
The University of Texas conducted a study on the oleandrin's effects on the kidney cells of monkeys infected by the coronavirus. In a paper in July, the university said the trial found "strong inhibitory profile of oleandrin in greatly reducing infectious virus production."