WASHINGTON, D.C. – According to an email that was reportedly sent to an independent journalist by mistake, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) attempted to pressure a lobbyist at Google into removing a video on YouTube that promoted a monoclonal antibody drug as a potential treatment for COVID-19.
Journalist Alex Berenson initially reported on the email, which he claims he received in response to an unrelated Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
In the email, FDA social media director Brad Kimberly is shown to be corresponding with Jan Fowler Antonaros, a lobbyist for YouTube’s parent company Google, with the subject being a drug known as Leronlimab, which some tout as a potential “alternative” treatment option for COVID-19.
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Kimberly appears to pressure Antonaros to get YouTube to remove the video – which had just been posted that day – saying that its content amounts to medical misinformation relating to the pandemic.
“I just wanted to flag a video that we believe is misleading when it comes to COVID-19,” the email says. “Overall, the video is very problematic when it comes to COVID misinformation. This video should be pulled.”
Currently, Leronlimab is not approved by the FDA; the organization’s website contains a statement on the drug, which they said produced no concrete results in terms of its ability to treat or cure COVID-19 after a series of clinical trials.
“With the conclusion of both the CD10 and CD12 clinical trials, it has become clear that the data currently available do not support the clinical benefit of leronlimab for the treatment of COVID-19,” the FDA website says.
Kimberly relayed this information to Antonaros in his email; however, Berenson was quick to point out that due to its lack of FDA approval, Leronlimab is out of the hands of potential users anyway.
“It is effectively unavailable to patients,” Berenson said. “Thus whatever its potential side effects or lack of effectiveness, it is not actually a risk to anyone.”
Antonaros later replied to the email, stating to Kimberly that the video had been reviewed and was found to not violate YouTube’s content guidelines; Berenson surmised that this was probably due to the video only discussing Leronlimab’s potential benefits and nothing more.
“It did not promise the Leronlimab would cure Covid, only touted its potential and encouraged the FDA to allow it under an emergency use authorization,” Berenson said.
As of press time, the video is still live on YouTube, but currently no longer viewable by the public; its status has been changed by creator Ryan Joseph to ‘private.’ According to reports, he did so to avoid providing negative press on Leronlimab following the reports on the FDA’s emails.