Trump Debuts Baffling New Plan to Buy Up Tons of an Experimental New Drug to Help Veterans

Photo: Susan Walsh (AP)

During yet another rambling, incoherent press conference involving plenty of anti-Semitism today, Donald Trump took a question about the epidemic of veterans’ suicides across the country. His response—about buying massive amounts of some new drug to help veterans—was absolutely baffling:

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Excuse me... what? Trump said he plans to tackle the epidemic of veterans suicides by buying up a new “product” which is a “form of a stimulant” from Johnson & Johnson? The president also said while the effects of the new drug are “pretty short term” they’re also positive, which is why he’s told the head of the VA to “go out and buy a lot of it.” Amphetamines for suicidal vets, let’s see if that helps!

But it appears Trump misspoke—at least on the “stimulant” part. The drug he seems to have been referring to is Spravato, which is made by one of Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical subsidiaries, and is an antidepressant.

At an event a bit later in the day, Trump tried it again, suggesting the company “should give it to us for free.”

As a little aside, Trump’s current ambassador to the UK is Woody Johnson, the 72 year old billionaire heir to the Johnson & Johnson empire, who also donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee. Weird! Anyway, moving on.

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According to the Military Times, the Trump administration has pushed the VA to adopt the new drug as quickly as possible (bolding mine):

Earlier this year, the Center for Public Integrity reported that Trump was pushing VA officials for quicker adoption of Spravato — a ketamine-like drug with the formal name esketamine — in mental health treatments despite concerns from some medical experts about its effectiveness.

In June, a VA medical advisory panel declined to put the drug on its list of VA-approved medications. The move did not ban use of the drug but does require VA physicians to provide additional justification for why patients may need the medication, and mandates additional monitoring for potential side effects.

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The CPI report the Military Times cites made my jaw drop. It reports that, among other things, the drug:

  • Didn’t prove to be better than a placebo in two out of three short term trials, but managed to get through the FDA’s procedure anyway
  • Might not work on people over 65, or on men in general
  • Can cause “dissociation, hallucinations, sleepiness, and blood-pressure hikes” that are “so significant that patients must stay in the doctor’s office for two hours after receiving their Spravato infusion. The office must be equipped with equipment to deal with hallucinatory, cardiac, and respiratory problems.”
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This is, apparently, Trump’s big plan for dealing with veteran suicides—give them a clinically dubious drug because... well. From the Center for Public Integrity again:

How the president learned of the drug and how exactly his enthusiasm was communicated to the VA remains a mystery. The White House declined to answer questions on that subject, as did the VA.

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Cool. Guess we’ll never know! Hope Woody’s enjoying London!

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About the author

Jack Crosbie

Contributing Writer, Splinter