President Donald Trump, who has aggressively promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus patients in and has asked India to export the anti-malarial drug to the US, has a "small personal financial interest" in the French pharma giant Sanofi, one of the manufacturers of the drug, according to a media report.
Hydroxychloroquine, an old and inexpensive drug used to treat malaria, is seen as a viable therapeutic solution by President Trump to coronavirus that has so far killed more than 10,000 Americans and infected over 3.6 lakh within weeks.
On Monday, Trump warned India that the US may retaliate if it did not export hydroxychloroquine despite his personal request, saying he would be surprised if New Delhi did not relent as it has good relations with Washington.
"If hydroxychloroquine becomes an accepted treatment, several pharmaceutical companies stand to profit, including shareholders and senior executives with connections to the president. Trump himself has a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine," according to a report in The New York Times.
The NYT report added that several generic drugmakers are algearing up to produce hydroxychloroquine pills, including Amneal Pharmaceuticals, co-founded by Indian-Americans Chirag Patel and Chintu Patel.
Amneal is donating 400,000 hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets to the State of Louisiana and has donated millions of the tablets to other states, including New York and Texas. Amneal also announced donations of products directly to hospitals across the country.
The NYT report said that Chirag Patel is a member of Trump National Golf Course Bedminster in New Jersey and "has golfed with Trump at least twice since he became president," according to a person who saw them, the NYT said.
Patel, whose company is based in Bridgewater, N.J., did not respond to a request by NYT for comment.
Other generic drugmakers are ramping up production, including Mylan and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. However, the US government's top infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci has been vocal about his concern that there is not enough evidence to suggest that Hydroxychloroquine is the drug that cures COVID-19.
Making his concern clear last week, Fauci said on Fox News, "I think we've got to be careful that we don't make that majestic leap to assume that this is a knockout drug. We still need to do the kinds of studies that definitively prove whether any intervention, not just this one, any intervention is truly safe and effective."
A Sanofi spokeswoman Ashleigh Koss said the company no longer sells or distributes Plaquenil in the United States, although it does sell it internationally.
The NYT report added that while Trump may ultimately be right about the use of the drug, "the president's assertiveness in pressing the case over the advice of advisers like Dr Anthony S Fauci, the government's top infectious disease specialist, has driven a wedge inside his coronavirus task force and has raised questions about his motives."
It said that some of Trump's associates have 'financial interests' in the issue. "Sanofi's largest shareholders include Fisher Asset Management, the investment company run by Ken Fisher, a major donor to Republicans, including Mr. Trump," the NYT report said.
It added that another investor in both Sanofi and Mylan, another pharmaceutical firm, is Invesco, the fund previously run by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. In a statement Monday, Ross said that he "was not aware that Invesco has any investments in companies producing" the drug, "nor do I have any involvement in the decision to explore this as a treatment."
As of last year, Trump reported that his three family trusts each had investments in a Dodge & Cox mutual fund, whose largest holding was in Sanofi.
Roberto Mignone, a Teva board member, reached out to the team of Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, through Nitin aigal, who used to work for Mignone and is a friend of Kushner's, according to people informed about the discussions, the report said.