Oleandrin is derived from oleander, a very pretty but highly toxic flowering shrub. It has been observed in some studies to have interesting effects on heart rate, which might, with time and careful, peer-reviewed study, prove to be useful in the treatment of some heart conditions.
However, the narrow sliver of potential between ineffectual amounts of oleandrin and a lethal dose is making experts a little wary about properly vetting its usage; it is, in fact, the very compound that makes oleander so lethal.
Lindell has yet to provide any such careful, peer-reviewed studies for its efficacy and safety as a coronavirus treatment – something Cooper pointed out during the interview. He also drew attention to the fact that Lindell is on the board at Phoenix Biotechnology.
“You don’t have a medical background, you’re not a scientist, yet you’re claiming this substance, which has not been studied in any meaningful way, can cure COVID. And you have a financial stake in the company. You would profit from it if this is being sold widely. Morally, is that right?” Cooper asked.
He later got a little blunter, asking the pillow man of Chaska, “How do you sleep at night?” and what differentiates him from “a snake oil salesman.”
Lindell -- who says he, his family members, and friends are already taking oleandrin, for some reason -- dodged most of the toughest questions, played the victim, and at one point told Cooper: "You're in my prayers."
Sounds condescending. Then again, Lindell wanted everyone to pray about the coronavirus and look what happened: We got a cure!
Lindell might soon need to pray even harder for Anderson Cooper, according to a letter from attorney L. Lin Wood to CNN leadership, which was obtained by Newsweek. Wood calls Cooper’s interview with Lindell “the most outrageously unprofessional ‘hit piece’ interview [he had] ever viewed.”
“While I am fully aware that Cooper’s sarcastic, mocking, derisive, and demeaning tone, attitude, and facial expressions toward Mr. Lindell are not legally actionable, I have complete confidence that Cooper’s false and defamatory accusations are actionable.”
The letter says that Cooper’s statements that “Phase I and Phase II clinical studies have not been conducted,” the supplement “has never been tested,” and that such tests don’t exist “anywhere outside a lab in a test tube” are false and defamatory. Lindell’s reportedly demanding a retraction and threatening “legal redress.”
The New York Times has looked a little into the progress of oleandrin research. Andrew Whitney, vice chair and director of Phoenix Biotechnology, said Lindell had misspoken during his interview with Cooper when he said it had been shown to be safe in a study of 1,000 people. In fact, a company provided 1,000 cancer patients in Honduras with a drug containing oleandrin on a “compassionate” basis, and it was not a controlled study.
He also referenced two early clinical trials using his company’s oleandrin compound that found it could safely treat cancer patients, but these were very small – about 50 people each – and didn’t conclusively prove the drug to be effective.
As for COVID, Whitney said he was “100 percent sure” the drug would work as a treatment because of a study run in Houston, with 200 samples of extremely low-dose oleandrin supplement and 80 people who either have been infected with coronavirus or live with infected people. It was not, the Times says, a “rigorously controlled clinical trial,” and Dr. Kim Dunn, who ran the study, told the Times results are not yet conclusive.
It would certainly take more rigor than that to get oleandrin approved as a drug, but over-the-counter supplements – like vitamins, weight loss pills, and anything homeopathic – are not required to go through the Food and Drug Administration’s testing gauntlet to hit the shelves.
If Phoenix Biotechnology went that route, oleandrin could not be legally sold as a cure for COVID-19, but when enough people go on TV (or whisper in the president’s ear) about it, the market of believers will come calling.
Or even attempt to find oleander growing, as it often does, out in somebody’s garden, and administer it themselves.
Please don't do that. And ask your doctor before taking this or any other substance Mike Lindell's selling. You might wind up falling into that kind of sleep where you won't even need a pillow.