The Washington Post, among several media outlets, recently circulated the results of a study conducted at a Veterans Administration facility claiming that the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine is linked to higher rates of death in coronavirus patients.
Yet the Post article mentioned clearly that “the study was published on the site medrxiv.org, which is a clearinghouse for academic studies on the coronavirus that have not yet been peer-reviewed or published in academic journals.”
In other words, the newspaper gave prominent attention to a single study that has been neither peer reviewed nor published in a reputable academic medical journal. Which raises the question, does publishing such an anecdotal result imply that the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients was unfounded or based on insufficient evidence?
And if so, why should we trust any other medication approved by the FDA?
I suspect that the Post’s motivation was to cloud the fact that a majority, in a survey of 6000 doctors, responded favorably about using hydroxychloroquine to treat their COVID-19 patients – likewise, to cast doubts about the double-blind French study that showed a 100-percent cure rate in coronavirus patients who received the hydroxychloroquine/azithromycin combination treatment.
The Post, it seems, also chooses to ignore the fact that other countries, such as China, South Korea, Jordan and many European countries, are using hydroxychloroquine in their treatment protocols. Indeed, the World Health Organization has begun a clinical trial in more than 100 countries using the drug to treat COVID-19 cases.
If hydroxychloroquine has no merit in treating COVID-19, why are these organizations and countries moving forward with using the medication on a massive scale?
In short, The Washington Post is proposing that we ignore the already-substantial body of evidence favoring hydroxychloroquine and follow one, small, un-peer-reviewed study published in a minor source.
I consider the Post’s behavior predictable; what I find truly shocking is that a panel convened by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has recommended against doctors using the hydroxychloroquine/azithromycin combo to treat COVID-19 patients because of potential toxicities.
The NIAID panel mentioned that, "The combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin was associated with QTc prolongation in patients with COVID-19."
QTc prolongation is a process that increases the risk of sudden cardiac death. The panel added that, "The recommendation against their combined use would seem to fly in the face of comments made by President Trump suggesting the combination might be helpful."
I strongly suspect a political motivation here. The NIAID panel’s position clearly contradicts what the American College of Cardiology (ACC) published in a March 29 article, which explained to doctors how to prescribe hydroxychloroquine/azithromycin to treat COVID-19 patients even in outpatient clinic settings — meaning in the absence of EKG monitoring.
Here is what the ACC stated about chloroquine, "Several hundred million courses of chloroquine have been used worldwide making it one of the most widely used drugs in history, without reports of arrhythmic death under World Health Organization surveillance."
It is vital to add that the ACC has considered that hydroxychloroquine/azithromycin’s effect on the QTc interval is not a contraindication for using the medications to treat COVID-19 patients. That is because the duration of treatment for COVID-19 infections is short (5 to 10 days). "While QTc-prolonging medication use has been associated with increased risk of death, this risk may be smaller than the potential benefit from treatment of COVID-19 for some patients," the article stated. In addition, "There are large potential population-health benefits from hastening viral clearance of COVID-19."
Should we, then, follow the NIAID recommendation on matters related to cardiology, or should we follow the recommendation of the ACC?
I think the answer is obvious.
Yet the anti-Trump media and other bodies are highlighting the VA study and the NIAID recommendation, in my view, to hurt the president politically. Such an attitude is misguided and dangerous.
If we stop using these valuable medications because of their potential some side effects, we risk many thousands of COVID-19 patients dying who could otherwise have been saved – so says a substantial body of existing evidence.
Incidentally, I can understand — though I disapprove — that some interest groups do not want to hydroxychloroquine succeed as a COVID-19 treatment because it is available generically and therefore can no longer be patented. If it becomes more widely used it could significantly diminish the number of cases to a level that might make vaccines and testing less-urgent issues.
Nevertheless, I condemn this disinformation campaign against the use of one of the most promising medications in our arsenal against the COVID-19 pandemic. Trading the loss of innocent lives against temporary political gain should be repugnant to all concerned.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid (aka Tarek Abdelhamid) M.D.; Mlitt (Edu) has testified before Congress and before the European Parliament. Dr. Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad: How Radical Islam Works, Why It Should Terrify Us, How to Defeat It." Read Dr. Tawfik Hamid's Reports — More Here.
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