Harold Bornstein, Donald Trump’s personal physician for over 30 years, ignited a firestorm this week when he claimed Trump associates raided his office and seized the president’s medical records in 2017 after the doctor told reporters that his patient takes a hair-loss drug.
"I couldn’t believe anybody was making a big deal out of a drug to grow his hair that seemed to be so important,” Bornstein told NBC News on Tuesday.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the seizure of the president’s records, which the doctor compared to rape, “standard operating procedure.”
“As is standard operating procedure for a new president, the White House medical unit took possession of the president’s medical records,” she told a White House press briefing.
But thanks to former White House physician Ronny Jackson’s assessment of the president’s health in January, we actually do know a bit about Trump’s medicine cabinet.
Jackson, who withdrew from the Department of Veteran Affairs secretary nomination amid allegations of workplace misconduct last week, said Trump takes daily doses of hair-loss drug Propecia, cholesterol pill Crestor, aspirin to prevent heart attacks, and Soolantra Cream for his rosacea. After the exam, Jackson reported that Trump’s health was “excellent” and his heart was “very good.”
Propecia, or finasteride, can lower sex drives by decreasing testosterone levels and dihydrotestosterone. It can also affect mental health.
Although rare, the pill can cause “erectile dysfunction and a decrease in semen volume,” Dr. Samuel Lam of the Lam Institute for Hair Restoration, told The Daily Beast. The hair-loss drug went generic a few years ago and was presented as a “medical breakthrough in the past 20 years to manage hair loss,” according to Lam.
And it seems that men with fertility problems who stopped taking Propecia significantly increased their sperm count. According to a 2008 report published in Fertility and Sterility and co-authored by doctors at the University of Toronto, two patients in their early 30s upped their sperm counts six months after quitting Propecia. Patient A’s sperm concentration went from .3 x 106 mL to 5.5 x 106 mL, and Patient B’s sperm concentration increased, too. Granted, this study focused on two patients, so it’s to be taken with a grain of salt. But the report illuminates how Propecia affects sperm counts: two patients who had a history of infertility or subfertility had a better chance of conceiving after quitting Propecia. If men with low fertility levels stopped using the hair-loss medication, the change can “prevent the need for more invasive fertility treatments,” according to the authors.
It’s not just sperm that’s affected. The National Institute of Health (NIH) lists Post-Finasteride Syndrome as a rare disease that causes stunted memory and depression.
But Trump does not only have Propecia in his cabinet. The president also uses ivermectin 1% cream, known by its brand name Soolantra, to treat rosacea, a skin condition that causes mild to severe reddening. Some 16 million Americans suffer from rosacea, according to the National Rosacea Society.
Soolantra cream was approved by the FDA in 2014 and is considered relatively safe. However, a significant amount of people with rosacea can also get Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, or SIBO. The bacterial infection often results in severe skin lesions, according to a July 2008 study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Out of 98 patients tested for the study, 42 were SIBO positive and had papulopustular rosacea. SIBO, a sister to irritable bowel syndrome, causes diarrhea and constipation.
When news of Trump’s rosacea broke last year, the founder of NuRuvealOrganics, a skincare company targeted towards people with sensitive skin, told Women’s Wear Daily Trump should cut back on avocados, chocolate, and cheese, which all trigger redness.
“Living a lavish lifestyle also may not be the best for rosacea since spa days in the sweltering sauna, and long days on the beach under intense sun both cause rosacea flare-ups,” added NuReVeal Organics head Alexandra Calvo.
The president also takes Crestor to treat cholesterol, otherwise known as rosuvastatin. Over a decade ago, a 2005 study concluded that Crestor was twice as likely to cause side effects like memory loss than other statins, the Los Angeles Times reported. Crestor can also lead to liver issues and muscle weakness, especially for elderly people (Trump, 71, is the oldest president elected to office).
But a 2012 study in a pharmacology journal found that rosuvastatin lowers the chance of cardiovascular risks like heart attacks between 20 and 50 percent and has a proven record of lowering cholesterol. In Trump’s January medical exam, Jackson said he was upping the president’s doses of Crestor.
Which means Trump’s health might not be in perfect shape. He’s not only got a chronic skin condition but also potentially fluctuating levels of cholesterol. While doctors The Daily Beast spoke with declined to speak on how Trump’s medications could intersect, they wondered if the alleged rift between Bornstein and the president violated doctor-patient confidentiality laws.
“When [Bornstein] describes it as a raid, the one thing I wonder about is was Trump getting concerned that his doctor might say things that would be information that he wouldn’t want revealed,” said Dr. David Orentlicher, co-director of the University of Nevada Las Vegas Health Law Program.
Bornstein spoke to The New York Times about Trump’s Propecia use merely two days before then-White House aide Keith Schiller and attorney Alan Garten allegedly stormed his office. While Trump’s cronies allegedly presented the doctor with a letter from Jackson, no official release form was attached. In normal cases, the move is viewed as a violation of patient privacy laws, but the measure is unclear in the case of presidential medical records.
News of the raid lies on the thin line between what the public has a right to know and Trump’s right to privacy. Ultimately, Americans should know about a president’s wellness, according to Orentlicher.
“The public is entitled to know whether a president is fit,” Orentlicher said.