A study of 2,500 patients in a COVID-19 hotspot found treatment with the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) significantly reduced deaths from the disease.
The peer-reviewed scientific study published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases reviewed cases of COVID-19 patients from March 10 to May 2 at six hospitals in the Detroit, Michigan area. Of those treated with HCQ alone, 13 percent died from COVID-19, compared to 26.4 percent who were not given the drug. Of those given HCQ with the antibiotic azithromycin, 20.1 percent died. In patients given azithromycin alone, the mortality rate was 22.4 percent.
“Considered in the context of current studies on the use of HCQ for COVID-19, our results suggest that the drug may have an important role to play in reducing COVID-19 mortality,” stated study coauthor Marcus Zervoc, M.D., in a news release.
“Currently, the drug should be used only in hospitalized patients with appropriate monitoring, and as part of study protocols, in accordance with all relevant federal regulations,” Zervos stated.
The study was released on July 1 by the Henry Ford Hospital System.
Campaign to Discredit HCQ
Despite the promising results, the study has not received much attention, says Meryl Nass, M.D., a biological warfare expert who is on the board of the Alliance for Human Research Protection. Nass is documenting efforts to discredit HCQ and publishes the results online.
“You are certainly not hearing as much about the Henry Ford study as you are the Lancet paper that came out April 22,” Nass told Health Care News.
The Lancet article reported hydroxychloroquine is an unsafe and ineffective treatment for COVID-19. The medical journal pulled the article after 200 researchers and physicians complained about inconsistencies in the data used in the study and the original researchers’ failure to provide more information, but the damage was done, says Nass.
“It was blared over all major media and halted a number of ongoing trails around the world,” said Nass. “The World Health Organization (WHO) contacted governments, advising them to get doctors to stop using the drug. Doctors could no longer prescribe it. Two manufacturers said they would no longer supply it for COVID and stopped their own trials.”
Nass’s list, “How a False Hydroxychloroquine Narrative Was Created,” cited 28 examples as of June 28. Item five is one that has gotten particular attention, says Nass.
“You design clinical trials to give much too high a dose, ensuring the drug will cause harm in some subjects, sufficient to mask any possible beneficial effect. You make sure that dozens of trials in dozens of countries around the world use these dangerous doses,” the item states.
HCQ’s Long, Safe History
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved hydroxychloroquine as safe and effective in 1955. It is commonly prescribed to treat malaria, arthritis, and lupus and other autoimmune diseases.
“It was an over-the-counter drug in France and many other countries until the pandemic started,” said Nass. “It was considered so safe that in parts of Asia it had been added to table salt in areas with a lot of malaria. It has also been on WHO’s list of essential medications.”
Nass has used the drug in her practice for years to treat Lyme disease. Now, because of the negative attention on HCQ, her patients are reluctant to continue the drug. Physicians are reluctant to use it for fear of a lawsuit.
“Liability is always an issue for doctors, and as of June 15 the FDA has told doctors [HCQ] should only be used in clinical trials for COVID, and if you’re going to use it, you need to monitor for electrolytes, do EKGs [electrocardiograms], order a number of lab tests,” said Nass.
“This is crazy for a drug that was over-the-counter until a few months ago,” said Nass. “Obviously, an outpatient doctor cannot monitor all those parameters every few days.”
Doctors make a promise, under the Hippocratic Oath, to work only for the good of each patient, says Jane Orient, M.D., executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.
“In today’s health care, the provider may be prescribing for ‘population health,’ according to a dropdown menu,” said Orient. “With COVID-19, government is interfering with the physician’s long-established right to prescribe FDA-approved drugs for any indication.”
The intrusion has sent a chill through the practice of medicine to the detriment of patients, says Orient.
“Thousands of patients might die needlessly because government is obstructing treatments that might work if given early, while doctors tell patients to take Tylenol, self-isolate, and go to the ER if they can’t breathe,” said Orient.
AnneMarie Schieber (firstname.lastname@example.org) is managing editor of Health Care News.
How the FDA May be Prolonging the Pandemic with Meryl Nass, M.D., The Heartland Daily Podcast, , M.D., July 13, 2020
Meryl Nass, M.D., “How a False Hydroxychloroquine Narrative was Created,” Alliance for Human Research Protection, June 28,2020: https://ahrp.org/how-a-false-hydroxychloroquine-narrative-was-created/