Killing the cure: The Strange War Against Hydroxychloroquine
By Meryl Nass, M.D.and Belinda Brown
The following is a deep dive into what appears to have been a concerted attempt to ensure that hydroxychloroquine would not be viewed as an effective treatment for COVID-19.
As Published on LifeSiteNews
The UK has had the ignominious triumph of having one of the world’s highest death rates. Some see the solution in continuing lockdowns, more testing and ultimately the vaccine. We argue that the solution lies in medical treatments, such as hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin rather than in vaccination. But hydroxychloroquine was ruled out as a potential treatment for covid19 quite early on. This is despite the fact that, when used correctly, it is a highly efficacious treatment. Had it been readily available as a prophylactic or early stage treatment we would need neither lockdowns nor vaccinations and dramatically fewer people would have died. However this didn’t happen. Here we intend to explore why.
Hydroxychloroquine had repeatedly been found to be an effective treatment for Covid19. Didier Raoult was one of the earliest to discover its usefulness. He treated over 1000 patients with azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine and almost 99% recovered. Other studies found its efficacy was increased when zinc was added into the protocol; there were fewer fatalities and patients were discharged home earlier. Harvey Risch, a Yale professor conducted a meta-analysis showing the key role it could play in an outpatient setting. This was recently confirmed by McCullough who showed how when started earlier it may reduce the progression of disease, prevent hospitalization, and is associated with reduced mortality. Most recently Zelenko has written on the dramatic improvements hydroxychloroquine can bring about in a nebulized form. A groups of scientists and phd researchers put together a ‘living review’, a database of all the papers on hydroxychloroquine which can be viewed here: https://c19study.com/ They suggest that had it been used over 1,344,703 lives could have been saved.
Safety was also never an issue when used correctly. It had been used for 65 years by hundreds of millions of people in tens of billions of doses, prescribed without routine screening and given to adults, children, pregnant women and nursing mothers. It is derived from the bark of the cinchona tree, which has been used for hundreds or thousands of years to treat malaria.
How did a cheap, safe, and highly effective drug, come to be seen as a potentially fatal medication, which you could lose your license for prescribing, your credibility for advocating and every time someone tried to talk about it, they would be banned, humiliated or described as ‘fake news’.
How did this happen? And more ominously, why?
The stage was set when the WHO Director General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a media briefing (18th March last year) made it clear that the controlled trials which had produced the initial findings were going to be overridden by the WHO’s far more expensively produced results:
" Multiple small trials with different methodologies may not give us the clear, strong evidence we need about which treatments help to save lives. WHO and its partners are therefore organizing a study in many countries in which some of these untested treatments are compared with each other. This large, international study is designed to generate the robust data we need, to show which treatments are the most effective. We have called this study the SOLIDARITY trial. "
The idea that multiple small trials are not able to generate strong evidence is false. The Cochrane Library Consortium, the gold standard in the research world, examined tens of thousands of comparisons between randomized trials and their non-randomized counterparts and found the two types of studies arrived at virtually identical conclusions.
But WHO appeared determined to control the narrative and set up a $108 million dollar study with 12,000 patients at 500 hospital sites across 30 countries. They trialled hydroxychloroquine on 954 late stage patients. 64% of these were already on oxygen or ventilation.
Using this study they were able to achieve very different results.
To understand how, you need to know covid 19 has three stages: viral replication which can develop into florid pneumonia and then multi-organ attack. Hydroxychloroquine tackles early-stage viral replication rather than late stage inflammation which requires a different approach. It is most valuable as an outpatient treatment preventing covid19 developing to a later stage.
By giving hydroxychloroquine to late-stage patients SOLIDARITY was setting up a trial which would be bound to have negative results.
However, more egregious was the dosage. While hydroxychloroquine is very safe when used correctly, like paracetamol it has a narrow toxic to therapeutic margin. In 1979 the WHO calculated that 1.5 -2 g of the “base” drug could be a potentially fatal dose. In the Solidarity trial patients were administered a dosage of 2.4 g (equivalent of 1.9 base) in the first 24 hours or 9.6 g in total over ten days.
The only ‘safety’ information collected during the trial was whether patients required oxygen, required a ventilator, or died. This effectively masked the adverse effects of the drugs tested, obscuring whether mortality was due to drug toxicity as opposed to death due to Covid 19.
This toxic dosage was quickly identified by India’s official medical research agency, the Indian Council of Medical Research. They wrote to the WHO to alert them to the fact they were using doses 4 times higher than in India. Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO’s chief scientist and previous head of the Indian medical research agency should have been able to identify this herself. A previous trial in Brazil in March-April with a slightly higher dosage (12 g in ten days) had been stopped prematurely due to excess deaths and is currently being investigated. But the Solidarity trial’s HCQ arm was only permanently stopped after one of the authors of this blog post, on finding out these doses, threatened them with a manslaughter charge. Was there a connection? You can decide.
A similar strategy in the fight against hydroxychloroquine was the Oxford based RECOVERY (Randomised Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY) clinical trials run by two Professors from the University of Oxford Peter Horby and Martin Landray. This was a large British multi-centre clinical trial of the sort generally believed to yield the most reliable evidence.
It also used 2400 mg of hydroxychloroquine in the first 24 hours for treatment of already very ill, hospitalized Covid-19 patients, a potentially lethal dose.
Horby and Landry presented a number of arguments to reassure that the dosages were not toxic, not all of which stood up to further investigation. For example, they suggest that as no extra deaths had occurred in the first couple of days when the dosage was highest this was evidence that the dose was not fatal (see line 284). They ignored the crucial fact that hydroxychloroquine has a particularly long half-life, and cumulative dosing was the more relevant measure.
FranceSoir concluded from their extremely detailed investigation of RECOVERY that many patients died of toxic overdoses of hydroxychloroquine rather than covid 19. You can read more about it here and here.
While the hydroxychloroquine arm has been shut down doctors are strongly encouraged to enrol all COVID19 patients onto the RECOVERY trial. In fact they recently recruited over just over 10,000 patients in January alone. They are also maintaining the same minimalist approach towards safety which we saw earlier on: “trials are being run as simply as they can to reduce the burden on the NHS”.
As Chair of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) and a committee member of The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), Peter Horby is an extremely influential man.
A third mysterious event in pushing hydroxychloroquine out of the picture was the publication in the Lancet of a large international observational study based on 96 000 Covid cases (15,000 of whom received a chloroquine drug) which appeared to show that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were of no benefit and caused considerable harm. This was reported on here. The flaws in the study were so blatant that one of us critiqued it on the day it was published. Within days 146 researchers wrote to the British Medical Journal with concerns about its methodology and data integrity. It took two weeks for the Lancet to retract the study but by then the damage was done.
In part one we showed how the trials designed to test hydroxychloroquine appear to have been manipulated in a direction which was bound to produce negative results. In part two we look at the influence of these studies.
Large studies have a significant impact on medical knowledge even where they are seriously misleading. They are more likely to be published and to shape meta-analyses. The fraudulent Lancet study mentioned in part one is still extensively cited.
But in the case of hydroxychloroquine there has been a determination to influence the way that hydroxychloroquine was viewed and used throughout the world in fundamental ways.
Firstly, the WHO put pressure on governments and professional bodies to stop doctors prescribing hydroxychloroquine. Belgium, France, Italy were just some of the countries which banned its use for treatment of Covid-19. The Jakarta Post/Reuters reported on May 27 that WHO had instructed Indonesia’s health ministry to suspend the use of hydroxychloroquine for treatment of Covid-19. Indonesia, the world’s 4th most populous country, had been using the drug early for all cases, independent of severity, with good results. Fortunately, Indonesia refused to comply.
Similarly, Costa Rica, which had a particularly low fatality rate, and was said to be the only country in Central America using HCQ for early treatment, considered stopping hydroxychloroquine as a result of pronouncements by the WHO.
The FDA at first issued an Emergency Use Authorization for chloroquine drugs, and then suspended this. Each of these moves served to restrict use of the drugin different ways.
The clamp down in the use of hydroxychloroquine in Switzerland created a natural experiment. For about 2 weeks after hydroxychloroquine use was halted, death rates approximately tripled, for about 15 days. Then, after its use was allowed again, two weeks later death rates from Covid fell back to their baseline. But this did not receive the attention which it deserved.
Large outpatient studies were also suspended in response to these studies.
For example, COPCOV, a large global clinical trial which aimed to enrol 40,000 healthcare workers in an outpatient setting, appears to have been temporarily halted after recruiting 226 participants. Investigators involved in the study argue that HCQ had the potential to save tens of thousands of lives. They attributed this suspension to ‘the fraudulent data [in the Lancet-published, later retractedstudy], unjustified extrapolation and exaggerated safety concerns’.
Similarly, another trial described as ‘The largest and most systematic outpatient trial leveraged by the US National Institutes of Health’ which planned to include an estimated 2000 outpatients with early covid-19 was stopped for good after only 20 had been enrolled in a month.
This was particularly damaging to the potential use of hydroxychloroquine, as it is in an outpatient context that it has its most valuable role to play.
And so the systematic exclusion of hydroxychloroquine from the COVID19 medical landscape progressed.
The most-consulted US medical encyclopedia, UptoDate, advised physicians to restrict hydroxychloroquine to only clinical trials, citing the FDA.
Sanofi also began acting like a regulator, writing to health professionals in Australia to remind them that hydroxychloroquine was not approved for use outside a clinical trial. Sanofi also started collecting information on all off-label use of hydroxychloroquine in New Zealand and Australia, providing mechanisms for people to make anonymous reports.
If anyone should wonder why Sanofi, a drug manufacturing company, should become a surveillance/ enforcement mechanism to frighten medical providers from using the drug for COVID19, it is worth noting that Sanofi, partnering with GSK, subsequently received a potential 2.1 billion dollars from the US government for 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine. Perhaps that is where the answer lies.
And in what appeared to be a strange war against hydroxychloroquine, in Taiwan, a country which fared remarkably well in the battle against covid19, a factory essential to the production of hydroxychloroquine was burnt down.
The barrage of negative publicity which the studies on hydroxychloroquine precipitated influenced what was published. When publishing empirical research, it is easier to publish positive findings. But when it came to hydroxychloroquine there was a bias towards publishing negative results. Studies from North America were almost four times more likely to report negative results than studies from the rest of the world combined.
Richard Smith, former editor-in-chief of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) helps us understand why: ‘Medical Journals are an extension of the marketing arm of pharmaceutical companies,’. He was backed up by Richard Horton: ‘Journals have devolved into information laundering operations for the pharmaceutical industry’.
Richard Horton was the editor in chief when the Lancet published the fraudulent research on hydroxychloroquine. He should know.
The treatment of hydroxychloroquine by social media companies provided a study on the operation of ‘fake news’. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said: ‘YouTube will ban any content containing medical advice that contradicts the World Health Organisation (WHO) coronavirus recommendations’. While this sounds reasonable on the face of it, the fact remains that the WHO’s pronouncements were not reliable. When those with power control the narrative it is more difficult to decipher the truth.
An example of this censorship occurred when a group calling themselves “America’s Frontline Doctors” gave a press conference and livestream talks about the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for physicians to be able to prescribe HCQ freely. While the media sparsely attended the press conference, the livestream got millions of views. Within hours, their livestream was banned by Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. While they can be found again on YouTube, they have been subject to character assassinations, and accused of having a political agenda. It is hard to see what they gain from exposing themselves to criticism and public humiliation except the knowledge that they have done their best to save other people’s lives.
There was a pattern of targeting doctors who spoke out in favour of hydroxychloroquine. Professor Didier Raoult, an authoritative microbiologist and one of the world’s most published scientists, wrote the original paper which put hydroxychloroquine on the map. As a result, he was subject to a significant level of attack. For example, when the New York Times Magazine did a feature on him, what they ultimately produced was a detailed hit piece. In the US, Raoult is now considered an unreliable crank.
Vinay Prasad MD explained how ‘Over the last few months, I have seen academic articles and op-eds by professors retracted or labelled “fake news” by social media platforms. Often, no explanation is provided. I am concerned about this heavy-handedness and, at times, outright censorship’.
In part one we looked at how trials of hydroxychloroquine appeared to have been designed to achieve negative results. In part two we looked at how these trials influenced strategies in the treatment of COVID19. Today we consider why hydroxychloroquine was subject to such an unprecedented attack?
Initially there may have been political motivations.
As it was the year of the US elections there was no shortage of people ready to criticise Trump’s poor handling of the pandemic. Firstly, he was attacked for downplaying the severity of it and then for his over-enthusiastic embracing of a potential cure. This was seen to be a risky strategy which could (and did) lead some people to self-medicate. As a result, Trump’s approach elicited a strong negative reaction from some members of the medical profession.
However, it also seems possible that had Trump been able to successfully promote hydroxychloroquine this would have transformed him into a hero. And there were many forces which wanted the President out.
Even before the WHO got to work on Solidarity, President Trump had, on the basis of findings from smaller clinical trials, obtained free drug donations for the Strategic National Stockpile of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, which were made available for distribution to state governments. By the end of May pharmaceutical companies had donated more than 150 million doses, enough to fully treat more than 15 million people as part of their efforts for the ‘prevention and treatment of the coronavirus outbreak’.
However, Rick Bright, an Obama appointed official, personally opposed widespread distribution of the donated hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, by insisting that it be registered for Emergency Use Authorization only (EUA). This greatly restricted its usage to only hospitalised patients, while preventing distribution to the outpatients with early disease in whom it would be expected to do the most good. This was not necessary as it was a properly licensed drug. This usage particularly discriminated against elderly residents in nursing homes who would no longer be able to access it as a prophylactic treatment.
This was a charade to confuse doctors. FDA participated in the charade, issuing advice that use of the drug required a level of monitoring that could only be accomplished in a hospital. So, even though doctors could legally prescribe it off-label, they became aware that if they did so, they would likely be sued for malpractice if something went wrong.
However clumsily some may feel that Trump articulated his plan, it would have been able to save thousands of lives.
But perhaps more pertinently the fingerprints of big pharma were all over the decisions made.
One of the earliest studies initiated in response to Trump’s plan found that patients receiving hydroxychloroquine were more likely to die than those receiving regular care. However it was soon acknowledged that this was due to the severe stage of illness, and the fact that those in the group who received the drug were much sicker than those who did not. As The study noted, ‘hydroxychloroquine, with or without azithromycin, was more likely to be prescribed to patients with more severe disease…Thus, as expected, increased mortality was observed in patients treated with hydroxychloroquine both with and without azithromycin’. The study was not peer reviewed, nor did it include azithromycin and zinc although previous studies suggested this combination produced the best outcome. One could argue that the trial appeared to be designed to ensure that hydroxychloroquine would come out badly.
One of the co-authors had been involved with Gilead which was produced remdesivir, a competing covid19 drug.
Perhaps more telling are the various links with vaccine producers. In fact, it is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the byword for vaccines, who were the experts when determining the doses of hydroxychloroquine. It was they who had developed a model of chloroquine penetration into tissues for malaria. At the expert working group they explained that they would have a post-exposure prophylaxis clinical trial protocol for hydroxychloroquine in the coming week, but we have not been able to find this.
Either way the BMGF were influential. At the first meeting where the WHO working group discussed the potential role of hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of covid19 five out of 25 of the meeting’s participants were from BMGF. When it came to decisions about the dosage for the disastrous SOLIDARITY trials a representative from the foundation was one of only four participants involved.
Similarly, BMGF heavily funded the Recovery trial.
As advocates of vaccination conflicts of interest were inevitable. But if the dosage decided on for the hydroxychloroquine trials was a mistake it has cost us very dearly and served BMGF very well.
Big Pharma are extremely heavily invested in the UK public health decision-making system from the top down. In the light of what we already know it would appear that their financial interest in vaccine production takes priority over a desire to save individual lives.
For example, many might wonder why Neil Ferguson, with his poor record of disease modelling, might be allowed to be so influential. But as someone who consistently over-predicts the scale of danger and is Acting Director of the Vaccine Impact Modelling Group, (funded by BMGF and GAVI, The Vaccine Alliance) he could undoubtedly play a useful role.
The British Government is also the largest funder of GAVI, The Vaccine Alliance. The links between big pharma, the WHO and our health strategies have been documented in detail here and here. When a floundering UK government is so heavily invested in a vaccine industry the potential financial gain from a successful vaccine roll out, rather than health and wellbeing of the people, is shaping everything which the government chooses to do.
When looking at public health decisions it becomes apparent that these have been shaped by big pharma in a way which will inevitably lead to vaccines. PCR testing has been used to artificially ramp up the rate of infections, lockdown has destroyed the economy, and potential cures such as hydroxychloroquine (and maybe more recently ivermectin) appear to have been strategically removed. As a result, we are pushed into a corner from which vaccines appear to be the only escape.
What can we learn from this sorry saga of hydroxychloroquine?
The WHO and other national health agencies, universities and charities have conducted large clinical trials which appear to have been designed so hydroxychloroquine and its cousin chloroquine would fail to show benefit in the treatment of Covid-19, perhaps to advantage much more expensive competitors and vaccines in development. In so doing, these agencies and charities have de facto conspired to increase the number of deaths in these trials. In so doing, they have deprived billions of people from potentially benefiting from a safe and inexpensive drug, when used properly, during a major pandemic. This might contribute to prolongation of the pandemic, massive economic losses and many increased cases and deaths.
Big pharma does not work in our interests. Some of those involved in this scandal appear to be financially motivated and these motivations shape policy decisions in ways which, certainly in the case of COVID19, are ultimately destructive of human health. Furthermore, their own agenda, wittingly or not, shapes the decisions and outputs of those further downstream.
We need some form of deregulation where as individuals we have greater control over our own health decisions. The risks involved are unlikely to be greater than the risks involved in entrusting ourselves to those who are influenced by financial interests when they make decisions about public health. Their recent track record speaks for itself.
Arbiters of ‘fake news’, wittingly or not, act as advocates for those with the funding and clout to produce the reports, studies and trials which make their case. While there is a great deal of fiction on the internet, fact checkers themselves do not have the authority to determine the ‘truth’ and in fact were recently pulled up for their censorship of a post about hydroxychloroquine. In the case of hydroxychloroquine (and more recently ivermectin) anonymous fact checkers claim more authority for the results of large clinical trials which can produce seriously misleading information.
By preventing the off-label use of hydroxychloroquine for early stage covid19 huge numbers of the elderly and those with co-morbidities, with men disproportionately represented among them, have died. This is genocide by default.
In this strange war against hydroxychloroquine it is not just hydroxychloroquine ‘they’ are attacking. This is a war against us.
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