Jim Crawford: Telling the truth about hydroxychloroquine

Published 6:11 pm Wednesday, August 19, 2020

How could one small, specialized medicine for malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis become a central issue to the COVID-19 virus pandemic?

Easy. Simply have the president of the United States, one Donald Trump, claim that hydroxychloroquine (HY) is one of the “biggest game-changers in the history of medicine.”

Trump claimed, evidence-free, that the coronavirus could be defeated by HY and HY alone. The virologists and epidemiologists on his federal medical team were stunned, shocked and surprised. They were caught unprepared. The FDA rushed to allow HY use for the coronavirus in March 2020 in response to the Presidents’ claim.

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But the free use of HY did not stop the virus cold. In fact, where used, it did not stop the virus at all and was withdrawn from FDA approval in June. The side effects of HY had proven damaging to some patients and the drug had saved no lives.

But Trump remained steadfast in his claim, HY was the solution. And, of course, Trump wanted the solution badly, not because of possibly saving lives, or risking lives with the treatment, but because he saw his re-election in danger by the virus and its economic component. A miracle cure was essential.

It should also be noted that Trump has never been known to reverse any narrative construction he has advanced. His style is basically always the same, true or false, “double down” is always the path forward. So double down he has done, and that has brought his loyal supporters into the ride, decrying those who challenge the truth of Trump’s narrative claim. And, of course, Fox News (Trump TV) has done its part. Media Matters recently analyzed Fox and discovered 100 times in three days the network advanced support for HY.

And then the doctors came forward to help the cause. First came the doctor who was also a minister, a general practitioner and a believer that demons cause miscarriages. She treated 350 coronavirus patients with HY and it worked. Of course, most had not been actually diagnosed with COVID-19 and none were hospitalized during her treatments, but that was just a matter of detail.

Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, a GP in New York state, reported that he had success using HY with over 400 patients. His patients had only to show any sign of the virus, like high temperature or fever or coughing, to be treated with HY. He reported zero deaths from COVID-19 in his primary care practice. Zelenko became an instant star of the political right, Fox News, Fox commentary and YouTube.

In July, the Henry Ford Hospital System reported a 50 percent reduction in COVID-19 hospital deaths when HY was used in treatment. But the study was observational, not controlled, and included the use of steroids, an agent known to benefit coronavirus recovery.

In the meantime, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Dr. Deborah Birx, experts in virology, argued that HY was not effective in the prevention of the coronavirus. And, Admiral Brett Grior, assistant secretary of health, stated that HY was proven ineffective against the coronavirus. Grior cited five studies, with a combined total of over 9,000 subjects that proved the ineffectiveness of HY against the virus.

So, we are left with three possibilities for those who continue to advance the myth of hydroxychloroquine. Supporters are either strong supporters of Trump (not a scientist) that whatever he says they believe; or they are believers in a conspiracy theory that somehow the entire planet is denying that HY is obviously the cure; or they choose to selectively accept as fact some data and discard the more science-based research because it does not match their preconceived notions.

Facts do still matter, science does still trump narrative and politics should always step aside when the facts get in the way.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State.