Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz has financial ties to at least two pharmaceutical companies that supply hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug he has touted as a possible treatment for Covid-19.

Oz, a physician and veteran TV host facing Democrat John Fetterman in the race for an open Pennsylvania Senate seat, owns with his wife at least $615,000 in Thermo Fisher Scientific stock, according to his financial disclosures. The Thermo Fisher Scientific website lists hydroxychloroquine sulfate as one of the products available. It is unclear when Oz and his wife purchased the stock or if they owned it, as Oz promoted hydroxychloroquine as a Covid treatment at the start of the pandemic.

Oz and his wife also own $15,001 to $50,001 worth of McKesson Corporation stock, according to the report. According to the FDA, the company labels and distributes hydroxychloroquine sulfate. It is also unclear when they bought the McKesson shares.

Hydroxychloroquine sulfate is an antimalarial drug commonly known as hydroxychloroquine, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Doctors across the country, buoyed in part by the endorsement of former President Donald Trump and the conservative media, have been offering the drug to patients as a treatment for Covid despite its dubious effectiveness against the virus.

Oz’s financial ties to the drug’s manufacturer and distributor and his promotion of it as a potential Covid treatment have raised questions about what he might have gained from its wider use during the pandemic. If he wins the Senate race, he could also face a conflict of interest as Congress grapples with the still-evolving coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement in response to CNBC’s questions about Oz’s dealings with companies that manufacture or distribute hydroxychloroquine, including when he and his wife bought shares in Thermo Fisher Scientific, Oz spokeswoman Brittany Yanick did not address the candidate’s financial holdings. .

“At the beginning of the pandemic, Dr. Mehmet Oz spoke with health experts around the world who were considering hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as viable treatment options for desperately ill COVID patients. He offered to finance a clinical trial at Columbia University,” she said.

The FDA approved hydroxychloroquine to treat malaria, but warned that it “has not been shown to be safe or effective for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19.”

At the start of the pandemic, Oz took bold steps to promote its use as a treatment. He urged Trump administration officials in 2020 to support a study he was going to fund at Columbia University Medical Center on the effects of hydroxychloroquine on Covid-19 patients, according to emails obtained and released by a separate House subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis.

Oz also has ties to a third company that says it has removed hydroxychloroquine from its US portfolio.

Sanofi, which is headquartered in France and used to make hydroxychloroquine, has supported the Oz nonprofit HealthCorps for years, according to the group’s annual disclosure reports. Between 2009 and 2018, Sanofi was listed as either a sponsor or an in-kind supporter of the Oz-funded group, which promotes itself as aiming to help teenagers with their health and well-being. In 2013, Sanofi is listed as one of the “school sponsors” of the group. The HealthCorps website says a school sponsor must donate $100,000 to qualify.

Sanofi announced in April 2020 that it is donating 100 million doses of hydroxychloroquine to 50 countries around the world as studies evaluate the drug’s effectiveness in treating Covid-19.

A spokesperson for Sanofi told CNBC that the company had nothing to do with Oz’s comments about Covid-19 or hydroxychloroquine. He explained that in 2013, Sanofi withdrew hydroxychloroquine from its US portfolio and was investigating the use of the drug at the start of the Covid pandemic as a possible way to fight the virus. As soon as it was found to be ineffective against Covid-19, the company stopped working on it.

The spokesperson also explained that the company’s last financial contribution to HealthCorps was in 2011. A company spokesperson later corrected himself in an email to CNBC after the story was published and said 2013 was essentially the last year Sanofi made a financial donation to HealthCorps.

Oz’s ties to companies that stand to benefit from increased use of hydroxychloroquine could spell trouble for the Republican if he wins a Senate seat. Cedric Payne, an ethics attorney at the Campaign Law Center, told CNBC in an email that Oz could choose to drop the campaigns if he defeats Fetterman in November.

“He may be in for a rude awakening if he is elected because ethics rules may prohibit him from doing this activity. Senators cannot use their positions to promote any goods or services that benefit them financially,” Payne said. “Oz may voluntarily divest his stock if elected or stop promoting anything related to his stock.”

A spokesman for Thermo Fisher Scientific declined to comment. A spokesman for McKesson did not return a request for comment prior to publication.

Since he launched his campaign late last year, Oz has downplayed warnings from the FDA and other experts against the use of hydroxychloroquine as a Covid treatment. He suggested that political hostility against Trump, who supported the drug as a treatment and Oz in the Senate elections, motivated the criticism of the drug as a means of fighting Covid.

“Let me say very quickly, I really don’t know if it works or not, we haven’t been able to prove to this day if it [hydroxychloroquine] works or not, which is a shame because we should have known by now whether a cheap 70-year-old drug that billions of people are taking is working,” Oz said at a campaign rally earlier this year. “But we don’t know what is a problem in itself. However, I mentioned it, and then President Trump mentioned it in a press conference, and suddenly the whole world hated hydroxychloroquine without having tested it, without knowing about it.”

Before starting his campaign, Oz was more vocal in favor of hydroxychloroquine. During a March 2020 Fox News interview at the height of the pandemic, Oz said that “hydroxychloroquine is playing a role” in fighting the virus. A graphic on screen during an interview with Oz called the malaria drug “promising” as a treatment option for Covid-19.

Oz also asked the White House for help in starting a study of hydroxychloroquine that he hoped to fund at Columbia University, where he was once vice chairman of the department of surgery. Since then, he said, the study never began.

The Pennsylvania candidate’s communications with White House officials were released by a select House subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis last month. In the March 2020 email to Trump’s former White House coronavirus coordinator, Deborah Birks, Oz said he would recruit patients and pay for hydroxychloroquine trials himself.

Also in March 2020, Oz wrote to Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner that “we must make the completion of this study a national priority and insist on immediate enrollment,” according to correspondence obtained and released by a House committee. Kushner responded to Oz the same day: “What do you recommend to speed it up?”

The New York Post reports that Oz spent $8,800 on hydroxychloroquine pills for the study and offered to spend $250,000.

Oz, while campaigning for a Pennsylvania state Senate seat, accused then-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo of shutting down the study after he effectively banned the malaria drug as a Covid treatment.

Oz’s financial ties could become a bigger problem for him if he wins the Pennsylvania race, one of several contests that will decide which party controls the Senate next year. The Real Clear Politics polling average shows Fetterman leading Oz by nearly 7 percentage points.

Stock ownership is facing increased scrutiny in Congress. Some lawmakers have proposed banning individual stock trading in Congress, which would require lawmakers to put assets into a blind trust or divest entirely.

Business Insider found at least 71 lawmakers who violated the Congressional Stop Trading of Information Act, or the EXCHANGE Act. The law aims to stop members of Congress from trading stocks using inside information obtained through their work as lawmakers.

Still, members of Congress generally faced little to no effect from the lucrative stock market trades.

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