White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Monday brushed aside the opinion of the administration's top public health officials as he defended a drug touted as a potential coronavirus cure by President Donald Trump despite a lack of evidence that it is effective.
On Sunday, Adm. Brett Giroir, who is in charge of the nation's coronavirus testing effort, told NBC News that it was time to "move on" from the debate over hydroxychloroquine because controlled studies had not shown it to be effective in treating or preventing COVID-19. Giroir said it was more important to focus on treatments that have shown clear benefits like the drug remdesivir and steroids.
"I take exception with Giroir's analysis. He hasn't looked at the data," said Navarro, who does not have a medical background, when asked on CNN about the remarks from Giroir, who is a pediatrician.
To support his claim, Navarro cited a Henry Ford Health System study, which has been criticized by medical experts, and Yale University epidemiologist Harvey Risch who has strongly advocated for the use of hydroxychloroquine on the coronavirus. Navarro suggested CNN should interview Risch to settle the argument, apparently unaware the professor had been on the network earlier that morning.
Navarro also claimed a study showed hydroxychloroquine was more effective than remdesivir in treating COVID-19, but it was not clear what study he was referring to.
"My view of this now is that doctors' opinions are a dime a dozen," Navarro said. "And you've got some doctors who say it doesn't work, you've got some doctors who say it does."
CNN host Jim Sciutto pushed back on Navarro's assertion that the science was essentially a matter of opinion.
"It's not a both sides thing because the country has a way of approving treatments through broad studies that are blind and so on," Sciutto said.
"It is both sides," Navarro insisted.
Peter Navarro's claim that "Hydroxychloroquine works better than Remdesivir" is a flat-out lie and criminally negligent. https://t.co/Lz3Egd9nKo
— Dr. Jack Brown (@DrGJackBrown) August 3, 2020
But there has not been two sides among the administration's top health officials, who have said the studies make it clear that hydroxychloroquine is not effective in treating COVID-19 – including Giroir, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr, Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator. In April, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning against using it outside of clinical trials, and last month the FDA revoked the emergency use authorization it had granted for the drug.
Trump first claimed the drug "could be a game-changer" in the fight against the coronavirus in March and he has continued to promote its use, even taking it himself, despite mounting evidence that it is ineffective. Last week, Trump shared a controversial video on Twitter, which was later removed for spreading misinformation, that featured doctors promoting the use of hydroxychloroquine, including one doctor who has claimed alien DNA is used in medical treatments.
On Monday, Trump again promoted the drug, saying it has "tremendous support but politically it's toxic because I supported it. If I had said, 'Do not use hydroxychloroquine, under any circumstances,' and they would have come out and they would have said, 'It's a great thing.'"
Trump's insistence that the drug is effective is one of several instances where he has stated beliefs at odds with the facts presented by his own administration's health experts. The president has consistently tried to put a positive spin on the pandemic, even as Fauci and Birx caution that the virus is not going away and that thousands more Americans will die from it. Trump has called Fauci an "alarmist" and earlier Monday he criticized Birx after she warned the virus was "extraordinarily widespread."
Navarro, a trusted ally of Trump, has repeatedly attacked Fauci, writing an op-ed in USA TODAY that said the infectious disease expert had been repeatedly wrong about the coronavirus, but which a fact check found was "misleading." Trump distanced himself from Navarro's op-ed and said it was a "statement representing himself."
“I can’t explain Peter Navarro," Fauci said of the criticism in The Atlantic. "He’s in a world by himself.”
Contributing: Ledyard King, Courtney Subramanian and Nicholas Wu
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Peter Navarro ignores experts, insists hydroxychloroquine effective