If the Rich Trust in Hydroxychloroquine, Should We?

Donald Trump the president last Saturday became Donald Trump the pitchman. He didn’t pitch any policy. He pitched instead what some are calling a “game changer” in the war against coronavirus, an 85-year-old anti-malaria medicine known as hydroxychloroquine.

Exhorted Trump at his April 4 daily Covid-19 briefing: “What do you have to lose? Take it.”

On Sunday, the next day, Trump asked that same question — “What do you have to lose?” — five more times.

President Trump, this barrage of pitches had skeptical Americans wondering, what do you have to gain?

Turns out that the president and various players in his entourage have plenty to gain should hydroxychloroquine become the global go-to cure for coronavirus. The president himself, the New York Times reports, has “a small personal financial interest” in one brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine.

Major investors in the company that makes that version of the drug include an investment management company formerly run by Wilbur Ross, the Trump administration’s billionaire commerce secretary. Among other investors with a big-money stake in hydroxychloroquine: the billionaire money manager Ken Fisher, a prime-time contributor to Republican campaigns.

Another fanboy of hydroxychloroquine, Amneal Pharmaceuticals co-founder Chirag Patel, belongs to the Trump National Golf Course Bedminster in New Jersey and has golfed with Trump, news reports indicate, “at least twice since he became president.”

Salon reporter Bob Cesca helpfully points out that the top corporate manufacturer of hydroxychloroquine, Novartis, spent about a year funneling $100,000 per month into “a reputed slush fund for Trump” managed by his personal lawyer Michael Cohen. That arrangement delivered $1 million worth of slush.

The investigative website Sludge, meanwhile, is reporting that a dark-money group co-founded by a billionaire Trump donor and bankrolled by Big Pharma’s trade association has been conducting a massive public outreach campaign pushing for hydroxychloroquine’s immediate counter-corona use.

Sam Pizzigati writes on inequality for the Institute for Policy Studies. His latest book: The Case for a Maximum Wage (Polity). Among his other books on maldistributed income and wealth: The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970  (Seven Stories Press).