I’ve Never Believed “They” Were “Hiding Cures”
SideEffects check – April 24 2020 at 05:51 PM
The hydroxychloroquine scare campaign is making me reevaluate some opinions about medicine and media.
I’ve always had a healthy aversion…
…towards people trying to sell me the idea that miracle cures exist for all manner of ailments, but some villain has managed to suppress them all.
This is the age of instantaneous information – the age of realtime mass-communication – the age of TheSmokingGun·com and WikiLeaks·org. Medical professionals have scores of official and unofficial channels in which to share thoughts and exchange information. Surely, any organization large and powerful enough to suppress knowledge of “cures” across all mediums could not remain invisible. Not in an age like this.
Yet here we are, a third of the way into 2020 as I write, and we are witnessing one of the most astonishing (and befuddling) gaslighting campaigns of my lifetime. On April 22, in the middle of the global quarantine due to the CCP Wuhan Coronavirus, practically every news outlet on the planet joined in a unified chorus to proclaim the ineffectiveness – and dangers – of the drug #Hydroxychloroquine.
The narrative is that the VA did a large study that found no benefit and bad side effects using HCQ to treat COVID-19 patients. It turns out the VA’s “large study” was a retrospective look at a tiny sampling of VA patients (about 80) who were possibly the worst candidates anywhere for assessing the efficacy of using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. As journalist Patrick Howley reported at National File, this was an extremely poorly designed and inconclusive study. It literally would be hard to design a study more certain to produce a negative verdict on this drug.
Besides its poor design, there are some other problems with the negative-verdict study. Howley reveals that two of its authors have pretty substantial conflicts of interest. One has a patent application, along with University of Virginia, relating to a COVID-19 treatment. (Hydroxychloroquine is off patent, generic, and costs less than $1.00 per pill.) Another of the researchers has taken research grants from Gilead Sciences, the developer of another novel COVID-19 treatment that is expected to sell for north of $1,000 per pill.
Gilead has received congressional scrutiny over confiscatory pricing schemes in the past, after pricing their hepatitis medicines at $80,000 to $94,500 for a full course of treatment, costing medicare billions. And speaking of congress, Gilead spends north of $5 million a year on lobbying.
So after looking at this study’s deficiencies, one has to ask why our media has such a disparately intense interest in this one small, poorly designed, study with a practically guaranteed outcome? How disparately intense, you ask? A suggested Google News search, “survey doctors hydroxychloroquine” primarily turns up references to a survey of 6,000 doctors with positive implications for the drug (just over 2,000 doctors answered the question about HCQ). The search produced 77,000 news results. A higher ranked search suggestion, “VA COVID study” leads mostly to this one unrepresentative negative story. This news search yielded 9,570,000 entries.
That’s a scoche over one hundred twenty four times the coverage—a 1242% visibility advantage for this one outlier study which happens to cast doubt on the drug. There is plenty more negative press that one could catalog as well, much of it unfounded commentary. Every recent Google search I’ve done for hydroxychloroquine featured page after page of deeply negative messaging about the drug’s prospects for treating COVID-19.
There has to be a good reason for this negative-over-positive coverage disparity, right? Maybe the positive evidence for HCQ is shoddy, inconclusive, misleading, or defective in some other way. Let’s look at it.
Survey of Doctors
In a rapidly evolving global health emergency, one way to assess the viability of a treatment option is to look broadly at the opinions of health professionals at different points in time. In an international survey of over 6,000 physicians, over 2,000 of them responded to a question about what they thought the “most effective” COVID-19 treatment might be. Hydroxychloroquine was their top ranked treatment.
In New York, Dr Vladimir Zelenko used HCQ + AZ + Zinc to treat 405 high-risk COVID-19 patients. 399 recovered fully, 4 more recovered after respirator interventions. He has publicly stressed that zinc is a crucial component of the hydroxychloroquine treatment, and that point is backed up by other doctors and researchers. (Although a few studies found positive results without zinc, from what I’ve seen, using zinc in combination with HCQ seems to add benefit.)
Negative press pieces on HCQ treatment almost universally omit any mention of zinc, meaning the authors are either critically uninformed or being deceptive.
If you take a gander at some of the negative press, you’ll see words and phrases like “untested,” “controversial treatment,” “only anecdotal evidence,” and “spotty evidence at best.” This is untrue. There is a growing body of high-quality studies. At The Méditerranée Infection Institute in Marseilles, France, “[a] cohort of 1061 COVID-19 patients, treated for at least 3 days with the HCQ-AZ combination and a follow-up of at least 9 days was investigated.”
Some salient quotes from this large-scale study:
- “No cardiac toxicity was observed.”
- “A good clinical outcome and virological cure was obtained in 973 patients within 10 days (91.7%).”
- “[V]iral culture was negative at day 10 and all but one were PCR-cleared at day 15.”
- Interpretation: “The HCQ-AZ combination, when started immediately after diagnosis, is a safe and efficient treatment for COVID-19, with a mortality rate of 0.5%, in elderly patients. It avoids worsening and clears virus persistence and contagiosity in most cases.”
The theory – or conclusion – that hydroxychloroquine might be effective against coronavirus infections is neither novel or controversial. In 2005, fifteen years before our present dilemma, a paper published in the Virology Journal concluded that chloroquine was a “potent inhibitor” of the infection and spread of SARS (which is also a coronavirus). As of today, you can still find this study on the CDC website, as well as on the NIH’s website.
The aforementioned National File piece by Patrick Howley also passed on reports from an LA doctor who has had 100% success treating patients with the HCQ + Zinc combination: “What we’re finding clinically with our patients is that it really only works in conjunction with Zinc,” stated Los Angeles emergency room specialist Dr. Anthony Cardillo. “So the hydroxychloroquine opens a zinc channel, zinc goes into the cell, it then blocks the replication of the cellular machinery….Every patient I’ve prescribed it to has been very very ill and within 8 to 12 hours they were basically symptom free.”
As of this writing, ClinicalTrials.gov lists 133 clinical trials of HCQ for COVID-19. Conducting studies consumes finite resources, so the decision to commit to one isn’t done lightly. This level of interest among the medical community belies the notion that hydroxychloroquine treatment is some sort of quackery.
An addendum to this article lists many more studies providing evidence for the efficacy and/or safety of this treatment.
While anecdotal evidence is far from the only evidence for this treatment, it’s not in short supply. Here are a few celebrities helped by HCQ treatment.
Michigan State Representative Karen Whitsett (D):
Rita Wilson, wife of Tom Hanks:
The positive studies above – just the quoted ones – represent evidence from over 2,500 patients. Despite clear evidence in favor of using hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of COVID-19, news coverage is almost universally negative. Is this all because President Trump touted the drug? If he flipped and panned it, would the media flip and promote it?
As Pavlovian as the US media is when it comes to this President, I think there is something bigger going on here. There is a coordinated, earnest and zealous effort to demote this potential treatment, and it’s obvious to the naked eye. Why is this? I don’t know for sure. People have theories, from things as simple as herd mentality to bizarre, convoluted and ridiculous conspiracy theories. I have a suspicion: A worldwide pandemic represents an unprecedented, history-making profit opportunity for Big Pharma. This industry represents one of the largest buckets of advertising spending on the planet, enough to enforce their preferences on the outlets where they spend money. A cheap, generic treatment becoming popular represents a worst case scenario for these people.
Remember, we’re talking about the same media that censors content on behalf of the Chinese Communist Government. The same media that completely memory-holes Nike’s using slave and child labor to make $500 sneakers. We’re long past any illusion of them having integrity. The obvious next question is, how much more suppression is there that we don’t even know about yet? ?
Keyaerts E., Vijgen L., Maes P., Neyts J., Van R.M. In vitro inhibition of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus by chloroquine. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2004;323:264–268. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
Breakthrough: Chloroquine phosphate has shown apparent efficacy in treatment of COVID-19 associated pneumonia in clinical studies
“Chloroquine phosphate, an old drug for treatment of malaria, is shown to have apparent efficacy and acceptable safety against COVID-19 associated pneumonia in multicenter clinical trials conducted in China.”
Expert consensus on chloroquine phosphate for the treatment of novel coronavirus pneumonia
“[T]he multicenter collaboration group of Department of Science and Technology of Guangdong Province and Health Commission of Guangdong Province […] developed this expert consensus after extensive discussion. It recommended chloroquine phosphate tablet, 500mg twice per day for 10 days for patients diagnosed as mild, moderate and severe cases of novel coronavirus pneumonia and without contraindications to chloroquine.”
Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as a treatment of COVID-19: results of an open-label non-randomized clinical trial
“Despite its small sample size our survey shows that hydroxychloroquine treatment is significantly associated with viral load reduction/disappearance in COVID-19 patients and its effect is reinforced by azithromycin.”
Hydroxychloroquine Use Is Associated With Decreased Incident Cardiovascular Events in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients
Recycling of chloroquine and its hydroxyl analogue to face bacterial, fungal and viral infections in the 21st century
“ For viruses, CQ led to inhibition of uncoating and/or alteration of post-translational modifications of newly synthesised proteins, especially inhibition of glycosylation. These effects have been well described in vitro for many viruses, with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) being the most studied. Preliminary in vivo clinical trials suggest that CQ alone or in combination with antiretroviral drugs might represent an interesting way to treat HIV infection. In conclusion, our review re-emphasises the paradigm that activities mediated by lysosomotropic agents may offer an interesting weapon to face present and future infectious diseases worldwide.”
“Moreover, preliminary in vivo clinical trials have suggested that CQ alone or in combination with antiretroviral drugs might represent an interesting way to treat HIV infection.”