Join Club

Health Matters: Is Science Losing in COVID Era?

Health Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Fourteen years of school and training is needed to become a physician specializing in infectious disease. Yet when it comes to novel treatment for COVID-19, a former crack addict who has made millions selling pillows has as powerful a voice as a doctor.

The race for a cure presents both opportunities and challenges to how we evaluate novel treatments and we are witnessing how drug approval can go awry during a pandemic. As a doctor, it is frustrating and concerning to see so many Americans place their trust in politicians and entrepreneurs over evidence-based medicine. It leaves me wondering if the role of a physician, and science in general, is devalued.

In this case, without adequate scientific backing, President Trump expressed enthusiasm for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve an experimental botanical extract called oleandrin as a cure to COVID-19. MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has been the biggest champion for oleandrin, stating “It’s an absolute miracle. I take it every day. I don’t get the virus. I have at least 50 to a 100 of my friends and family. Some that got it, and in two days they’re fine.” No, you’re not reading The Onion or watching a late-night infomercial starting with “from the maker of MyPillow…”

Turns out that Andrew Whitney, executive of oleandrin drug maker Phoenix Biotechnology, enlisted outspoken Trump donor Lindell, who also has financial stake in the company, to speed up approval. Lindell then got HUD Secretary Ben Carson aboard and arranged for a private meeting with Trump in July to tout how oleandrin can cure COVID.

In addition to anecdotal stories, Lindell and Whitney reference a study that suggested oleandrin can inhibit SARS-CoV-2 replication in monkey kidney cells in vitro. However, the study was not peer reviewed, not tested on humans and one of the authors was previously a chairman of Phoenix Biotechnology’s scientific advisory board. To date, there is no peer-reviewed randomized control trial in humans showing efficacy of oleandrin against COVID-19 — it could in fact be lethal — yet members of the administration want it thrust to the masses. Perhaps more concerning than the paucity of science is how easy it was for Lindell to push this product at the highest level.

We have seen this tactic before, in which entrepreneurs push unproven products as if it were a Shark Tank sales pitch in hopes that Trump will urge FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn to expedite approval. For example, in March, Trump personally urged Hahn to authorize hydroxychloroquine for emergency treatment. The FDA obliged but later rescinded authorization after it was deemed ineffective and could actually cause serious heart arrhythmias.

The pandemic has prompted the FDA to create the Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program (CTAP) which aims to use every available method to move new treatments to patients as quickly as possible while concurrently assessing if the medicine is helpful or harmful. More than 570 drugs are in planning stages and more than 270 trials have been reviewed.

No treatment is currently FDA-approved for COVID, and only two treatments have emergency use authorization (EUA), one of which is remdesivir. CTAP and EUA allow for fast-tracking new potentially beneficial medications to the public with a modicum of scientific review, but it also exposes science to politics more than ever.

In an apparent need and willingness to abandon proven drug evaluation protocol, people will try anything and listen to a pillow guy. People will listen to a president who self-aggrandises his “natural talent” for science because of his “super genius” engineer uncle, while suggesting injecting bleach and UV light into the body. However, physicians are not absolved from guilt.

The “supergroup” of physicians gathered in front of the Supreme Court called “America’s Frontline Doctors” was nothing more than a political posture embellished with white coats. These doctors, who ranged from a alien conspiracist to non-practicing physicians, promoted dubious advice such as the ineffectiveness of masks, and many including the president took the bait by retweeting video of the summit. In a pandemic, the public will believe things they otherwise would not.

And who can blame the public? There have been retractions about facemasks, hydroxychloroquine and quarantining. Every day there seem to be new reports that contradict yesterday’s reports. As worldwide deaths surpass 785,000, the temptation to make unproven therapies widely available without rigorous clinical trials becomes increasingly tempting. In the end, this pandemic will leave behind a legacy of human and financial loss, but loss of respect for science should not be part of it.

Dr. George C. Hwang, known to his patients as Dr. Chaucer, is a practicing anesthesiologist who also helps to run Mind Peace Clinics in Arlington. He has written for multiple journals, textbooks and medical news outlets, and has been living in Arlington for the past 15 years.

Recent Stories

Tens of thousands of dollars in donations, as well as several notable endorsements, are going to Arlington Democratic candidates as this year’s races heat up. Three County Board contenders are…

Morning Notes

Arlington a ‘New Powerhouse in AI’ — “Arlington, VA, traditionally known for its strategic importance in government and defense, is rapidly transforming into a thriving hub for artificial intelligence (AI)…

Good Wednesday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…

People will fill some local streets for the “Earth Day Every Day” festival this weekend along Langston Blvd. The festival is taking place this Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5…

Unlike our competitors, Well-Paid Maids doesn’t clean your home with harsh chemicals. Instead, we handpick cleaning products rated “safest” by the Environmental Working Group, the leading rating organization regarding product safety.

The reason is threefold.

First, using safe cleaning products ensures toxic chemicals won’t leak into waterways or harm wildlife if disposed of improperly.

Second, it’s better for you and your family. Fragrant chemicals in surface cleaners can expose you to a similar amount of pollutant particles as a busy city road, New Scientist reported.

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

Northern Virginia Family Practice (NVFP), known for its comprehensive concierge healthcare, is thrilled to introduce Mark Sullivan, MD as the newest member of its family medicine team.

Dr. Sullivan brings a wealth of experience in family medicine, underpinned by a passion for delivering personalized, patient-centered care. He has a distinguished background in managing various medical conditions, emphasizing preventive care, health education and chronic disease management. Dr. Sullivan is adept at employing the latest medical research and technologies to enhance patient outcomes.

Beyond his medical expertise, Dr. Sullivan is committed to the well-being of his community, demonstrating this through his active engagement in local health initiatives and educational programs. His approach to medicine is holistic, focusing on integrating physical, mental and emotional health and patient education to achieve optimal patient wellness.

Dr. Sullivan is now accepting new patients at their newly established Arlington office at 2445 Army Navy Drive, Arlington, VA, 22206. The office, known for its patient-friendly amenities and state-of-the-art medical facilities, continues to provide the exceptional, personalized care NVFP is known for in its newly upgraded Arlington location.

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

Fascination

Goth-Dark Wave Dance Party with Belly Dancing and Drag King Show.

                                         Part of Our

Alternative Thursdays for Alternave People with Alternative Lifestyles

                                      Performances By

Belladonna and the Nightshades

Ya Meena

Drag King - Ken Vegas

DJ Michelle Guided

National Chamber Ensemble – Concerto Celebration

We invite you to join us for an extraordinary evening of music at our Season Finale, “Concerto Celebration”! Enjoy several masterworks as NCE performs two famous concertos in an intimate chamber music setting, opening with a delightful work by Chevalier

×

Subscribe to our mailing list