Donald Trump‘s economic adviser claims he is qualified to measure the effectiveness of an anti-malarial drug against the novel coronavirus because he is a “social scientist” despite not having a degree in medicine.
Peter Navarro told CNN on Monday that he understands “how to read statistical studies, whether it’s in medicine, the law, economics or whatever”.
He has a master’s degree in public administration and a PhD in economics. He does not have a background in public health or medicine.
Asked why he believes he’s more qualified to talk about the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine than Dr Anthony Fauci, the top doctor leading the White House coronavirus task force response, Mr Navarro said: “Doctors disagree with things all the time.”
Dr Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has repeatedly clarified that early reports of the drug’s use against Covid-19 are anecdotal and not clinically proven to combat the virus.
Mr Navarro said he is relying on the president’s “intuition” to determine the drug’s efficacy, from “all the doctors I’ve talked to and all the scientific papers I’ve read.”
His statements follow reports that he had clashed with White House officials while insisting that hydroxychloroquine — which has been used to treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis — should also be used to treat coronavirus patients, and reportedly lashed out at Dr Fauci about the drug’s efficacy, as reported by Axios.
The president has pressed for doctors to use the drug to treat their patients, despite his own health officials contradicting his claims. At a White House briefing on Sunday, the president refused to allow Dr Fauci to answer questions about the drug.
In March, the federal Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency authorisation to distribute the drug from a national stockpile, but made clear that the two drugs — chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate — are not approved by the agency for Covid-19 treatment.
The US Department of Health and Human Services has also stressed that despite anecdotal reports, the drug still requires clinical trials “to provide scientific evidence that these treatments are effective” against the virus.
In March, an Arizona man died and his wife was in critical condition after they ingested chloroquine phosphate, commonly found in fish tank cleaners.
She told NBC that the president said the chemical “was pretty much a cure.”