White House trade adviser Peter Navarro on Tuesday defended President Trump’s emergency authorization of convalescent plasma therapy as treatment for COVID-19, even after Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn conceded that he had overhyped its effectiveness.
When pressed during an MSNBC interview on Hahn’s tweet the night before that the criticism he’s faced over his remarks about the benefits of convalescent plasma was “entirely justified,” Navarro hit back at the notion that emergency approval of the unproven treatment for COVID-19 “falsely inflates hopes.”
“I don’t accept that,” Navarro said. “That, to me, is like a crazy talking point.”
After pointing out that both Hahn and the Mayo Clinic have said that the emergency approval of using plasma to treat COVID-19 reduces the possibility of having a proper randomized study on it, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell asked Navarro whether Hahn was wrong.
“On the issue of not being able to do randomized trials, what is the calculus here?” Navarro said. “Are we going to wait to use something that can save thousands of lives just so we can have a study that tells us what we already know?”
Mitchell cut in to point out “yes, that is scientific practice, sir” because it’s how vaccines and drugs are approved.
Navarro responded by circling back to asking whether it’s worth waiting for a therapy that “likely works.”
“This is an important debate for the American people and your viewers to have: Do you want to wait for a therapy which likely works to get these scientific studies which are going to take three, six months, whatever?” Navarro said. “Or do you want to have the right to try?”
After Navarro boasted that Trump is “the right to try president” and that the debate over convalescent plasma “puzzles me, frankly” because it’s been used as a therapy for over a century, Mitchell hit back that it’s a treatment for other diseases and that COVID-19 is a new virus.
Navarro went on to claim that the odds of the plasma treatment “being able to hurt you are close to zero, so it’s safe” while “the odds of it being able to help you are close to 100%.” Mitchell called that out for being an incorrect assertion.
Navarro said that Hahn “misspoke” before doubling down on his claim that the effectiveness of the plasma treatment for COVID-19 is nearly 100%.
“It’s not going to help every person,” Navarro said. “Hahn basically used absolute numbers rather than relative. I’m not going to defend Stephen Hahn.”
Mitchell then brought up how Hahn, President Trump and HHS Secretary Alex Azar touted the plasma treatment’s effectiveness during a White House press conference on Sunday.
Navarro went back to airing his reluctance toward waiting longer for a COVID-19 treatment.
“The question for your viewers is simple: People are dying out there. Does convalescent plasma likely help people in terms of saving lives? And I think the answer is yes,” Navarro said. “The question of how much it helps, that’s to be determined. But I think that it’s good that it’s out there.”
Navarro’s remarks come after Hahn also denied that the authorization, which had been touted by President Trump in an effort to bolster his re-election chances, was a politically driven move as Trump continues pressuring the FDA to approve a COVID-19 treatment by November.
“We at FDA do not permit politics to enter into our scientific decisions,” Hahn tweeted on Monday night. “This happens to be a political season but FDA will remain data driven.”
Watch Navarro’s remarks below:
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro is asked whether FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn was wrong on COVID-19 plasma treatment pic.twitter.com/rIiRV6xKb4
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) August 25, 2020