Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a possible cure for COVID-19 was prohibited in France on May 27 because of a recent study published on May 22 by The Lancet.
The study cast doubts on the safety of the drug, which it says has no positive effects on the health of patients who swallowed it after being infected by the Chinese coronavirus. It also claimed that mortality of hospitalized patients went up from over 9 percent of the control group to 23 percent of patients receiving the drug in combination with a macrolide antibiotic.
Despite many issues surrounding the data collected for the study, their use and the company that did the statistical work, Surgisphere, both the World Health Organization and France reacted immediately. WHO stopped a study of the drug and it took French Health Minister Olivier Véran only one day after the publication by The Lancet to ask the French High Council for Public Health (HCSP) to decide whether hydroxychloroquine should continue to be allowed to be prescribed in hospitals to COVID-19 patients. HCSP came back with its answer on May 26: all prescriptions in this context should be stopped, it said.
Serious doubts had immediately been cast on the validity of the Lancet study in various countries, leading to the medical journal’s publishing of an “Expression of concern” on June 3.
The World Health Organization has since decided to resume its study. No such thing has happened yet in France where one of the world’s top specialists on infectious diseases, Pr Didier Raoult, has been targeted by Véran as “irresponsible” and “f…king things up” in repeated attacks against his promoting hydroxychloroquine with azithromycine as a treatment for COVID-19.
Pr Raoult of Marseille said the Chinese coronavirus’ game was up on February 25
This is just the latest step in a strange sequence of events that had its climax in February, just before the coronavirus pandemic went into full swing in Europe. It was at that point that Pr Didier Raoult of the Marseille special university hospital unit for in infectious diseases, IHU Méditerranée Infection, announced that a Chinese study had shown that 500 mg of hydroxychloroquine taken for 10 days when prescribed as soon as patients were tested positive had “spectacular results” against the virus.
It should have been no surprise, since that same drug had been found to be effective against SARS-CoV-1 (the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome linked to a coronavirus outbreak in 2003). In his video dated February 25, Raoult smilingly explained that the new Chinese coronavirus had been beaten, not by a vaccine that will take years to develop, but by a well-known drug that has been prescribed for various conditions for decades, and that COVID-19 “is probably the easiest respiratory infection of all to treat.”
But that is not what happened. Instead, in France Raoult was ridiculed despite his status as a world-famous specialist of infectious disease. And in many countries, treating COVID-19 patients with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine was discouraged by health authorities, and in many cases was even severely restricted.
Why was hydroxychloroquine severely restricted in many countries?
Why? This is a difficult question to answer if one is prepared to believe that public health authorities and political leaders actually have the public’s best interests in mind, be it with the recommendations given to COVID-19 patients, or with their decision to “stop the world” and totally disrupt its economic equilibrium through a lockdown aimed not at isolating those who are contagious, but at keeping healthy people from the streets and preventing them from worshipping, earning their living, travelling, and so on.
The situation and its developments in France, including a number of facts that appear hard to explain as well as the frank hostility with which Pr. Didier Raoult was treated, indeed raise serious questions about the motivations of our civic leaders.
Similar scenarios played out in the US, Germany, Netherlands and elsewhere. In several countries, prescription of hydroxychloroquine is only officially permitted when a stage of severe pulmonary infection has been reached – a point at which the treatment is known not to be effective.
Over-the-counter sales of “safe” HCQ were banned in France in January
When Raoult announced “game over” for the Chinese coronavirus on February 25, it came to public attention that hydroxychloroquine, a safer and better tolerated derivate of chloroquine which is itself a pharmaceutical drug derived from quinine, was no longer available over-the-counter in France since January 13, following a regulation published by delegation for Health Minister Agnès Buzyn by the General Director of Health, Jérôme Salomon.
Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), known as “Plaquénil” in France, was developed in Germany roughly at the same time as chloroquine in the 1930s and has been efficiently used as an anti-malaria drug since then until resistant forms of malaria appeared. It is currently used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Doctors have more than 80 years experience with prescribing this cheap molecule that was never considered to be a dangerous medication – until the beginning of this year.
The surprising inscription of HCQ on the list of poisonous substances, only dispensable with a prescription. only weeks before the coronavirus was identified as having entered into France, led many to wonder whether the move had been deliberate in this context.
It was underscored in particular that Buzyn’s husband, Yves Lévy, until recently head of the INSERM (National Institute for health and medical research) was a member of the French delegation present at the opening of the Wuhan P4 “high security” laboratory that conducts research on dangerous viruses, and that he also had a personal axe to grind against Didier Raoult who was one of the first to complain about a conflict of interests when Buzyn was named Health Minister and became supervisor of the INSERM – and of her own husband. These accusations were brushed aside by the mainstream press.
Questions regarding favoritism for some drug companies and a strange readiness to promote other experimental treatments, such as Remdesivir by the American laboratory Gilead, were also raised. This led, – according to Raoult – to the publication of at least one questionable scientific paper. The treatment would cost about 1 US dollar per day while hydroxychloroquine costs 0.08 US dollars per day. A New England Journal of Medicine study financed by Gilead, said Raoult, only proved that Remdesivir has dangerous side effects that led Gilead to stop treatment of 8 percent of patients involved. In total, 60 percent of patients experienced side effects, and 23 percent serious side effects. No comparative data was available that would have allowed to assess the efficiency of the drug, said Raoult.
Remdesivir was approved for emergency use on hospitalized COVID-19 patients by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on May 1, and Japan also authorized it on May 8, with positive comments and without special warnings.
The FDA authorized emergency use of hydroxychloroquine on hospitalized COVID-19 patients on March 28, though not in combination with azithromycine as recommended by Raoult, and only using products obtained from the Strategic National Stockpile. The FDA’s explanation of the authorization came with a warning that “hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have not been shown to be safe and effective for treating or preventing COVID-19.”
What was known ahead of the pandemic’s outbreak?
Buzyn – under whose express authority the January 13 regulation restricting sales of HSQ was signed – abruptly left the Health Ministry in mid-March in order (unsuccessfully) to campaign on behalf of the presidential party “La République en Marche” for the post of mayor of Paris, LREM’s previous candidate having been obliged to step down because of a sex tape he had sent a female journalist he was having an affair with: her boyfriend, a Russian contemporary artist, published it on social media.
The fact that Buzyn was forced to step down from her post as Health Minister in the middle of a major health crisis in order to run for the municipal elections also seemed strange.
In a tearful interview with Le Monde on March 16, depressed at leaving her post as Health Minister and worried about municipal elections that were to take place despite the epidemic, only one day before lock-down, Buzyn stated that she had warned President Emmanuel Macron about the dangerousness of the new coronavirus in China as early as January 11… weeks before it became public news.
This was put forward on social media as “proof” that HCQ was restricted because of its possible efficiency against the novel coronavirus.
The same mainstream press ridiculed those suggestions. “Fact-checkers” remarked that the decree bore the date of January 13, but that the publication was the result of a several month long process that had been initiated before the epidemic started in Wuhan, China. In fact, the French health security agency, ANSES, had been asked it to qualify HCQ as a poisonous, prescription-only drug in the course of October 8, 2019, two months before the novel coronavirus made its appearance. It agreed to do so on November 12.
Is this conclusive? While it cannot be affirmed that the COVID-19 episode was known of beforehand or planned ahead, international organizations and superpowers were clearly expecting a coronavirus pandemic to occur sooner or later.
In fact, globalists have said such a pandemic would be a useful step toward their goal. In 2009, Jacques Attali, counselor of nearly all recent French presidents and mentor of president Emmanuel Macron, openly described a worldwide pandemic as an opportunity – thanks to fear of dying – to advance towards world government, with a world police and a world tax system. He published those comments in L’Express, a left of center weekly, on March 3, 2009.
On October 18, “Event 201” took place in New York. The “high-level pandemic exercise” was hosted by the Johns Hopkins Centre for health security in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It was of course a fictional exercise, but it showed how these institutions were then promoting a global, supra-national response. The fictional pandemic in the exercise took 65 million lives. COVID-19 is said to have claimed 379,941 victims worldwide as of June 3, with deaths occurring following a characteristic bell-shaped curve that is presently in its descending phase.
A 2003 “Lancet” paper showed HCQ to be useful against coronaviruses
Another interesting factor is a paper published in November 2003 by The Lancet about chloroquine and its derivative, hydroxychloroquine, showing that both molecules are useful in fighting viral infections, including coronaviruses. The study stated:
“Chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine has a well-studied toxicity profile. The half-century-long use of this drug in the therapy of malaria demonstrates the safety of acute administration of chloroquine to human beings. The use of chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine in rheumatic diseases and for antimalarial prophylaxis showed a low incidence of adverse events during chronic administration of this drug for periods of up to a few years. In these cases, the most serious toxic effect is a macular retinopathy, which depends on the cumulative dose rather than on the daily dose, and permanent damage may be prevented with regular visual monitoring during treatment. A recent study provided encouraging results on the safety of a high dosage of the drug (up to 500 mg of chloroquine base per day) even during pregnancy.
“We conclude that chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine administration presents limited and well-preventable toxicity and may thus result in a low risk/benefit balance at least when it is used in life-threatening conditions.”
A study published in November 2019 by Ashutosh Shuklan in Drugs in context concluded that chloroquine and HCQ were “ready for a new chapter in their life” because “over the last six decades of clinical use, CHQ and HCQ compounds have shown excellent safety profile with good long-term tolerance in not only the general population but in certain special populations as well, including among pregnant individuals and those with renal failure.” Applications in rheumatology, but also infectious diseases, kidney diseases and oncology were shown to be probable or possible. Undesirable by-effects, the study remarked, are now well-known and easy to handle.
Hydroxychloroquine only became “dangerous” when used to treat COVID-19
So, what happened that suddenly transformed HCQ into a dangerous drug in the public discourse? It was only when it started to be used against COVID-19 that this narrative took hold in the media.
In Marseille, Raoult refused to follow suit. In his frequent video interviews over the last months, he has repeated that millions of people “eat” hydroxychloroquine every year, as one of the more widely prescribed drugs the world over. 36 million doses of HCQ were swallowed last year in France, he often recalled.
Raoult also noted that many drugs are “poisonous” when overdosed. Overdoses through home use of the common painkiller paracetamol (also known as acetaminophen), an over-the-counter drug, cause large numbers of intoxications, liver damage and is even responsible for a number of deaths (for instance: more than 95,000 hospital admissions and over 200 deaths in Australia between 2007 and 2017). It is even, at present, one of the most common causes of intentional and unintentional poisonings the world over.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started to hit hard in France, where to date, over 29,000 deaths have been officially attributed to the coronavirus, Pr Raoult became a media and even more a social media phenomenon. His videos claiming that an HCQ treatment (500 mg to 600 mg a day, which is considered safe according to the 2003 Lancet paper quoted above), associated with a widely used antibiotic, azithromycin, administered as soon as testing showed that patients were positive, brought down the viral load within six days and obtained good results in preventing lung infection from following. In a more recent video published on May 25, Raoult added that the adjunction of zinc to his protocol was giving even better results.
Here is a short video interview of Pr Raoult in English by a member of the IHU-Méditerranée in which he described his experience with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin on March 17, and his explanation of the efficiency of the drug:
Smear campaigns against Didier Raoult
Controversy immediately set in, with “official” voices accusing Raoult of lying, exaggerating his success, acting like a guru or promoting his own – highly original – personality. They also insisted that hydroxychloroquine is a dangerous medication, some of them suddenly even adding that its association with azithromycin made it particularly unsafe. Cardiac and retinal problems were quoted, even though the latter have always been associated with a prolonged administration of the drug.
After the January 13 restriction, off-label prescription of hydroxychloroquine was illegal because of an existing law in the Health Code.
On March 25 and March 26, prescription of HCQ for COVID-19 patients was made legal for treatment of COVID-19 patients, but rigorously restricted to severe cases in hospitals only. On May 25, it was banned altogether for COVID-19 patients in France.
French guidelines: no testing, no treating
The situation was even worse than that, since doctors were de facto being commanded not to treat patients with mild symptoms at all, even if a number of them ignored the March 26 decree and tried various medications.
At the same time, official guidelines imposed minimal testing, meaning that many people with flu-like symptoms never knew whether they had COVID-19 or not, probably leading to a number of pointless decisions to self-isolate on the part of active citizens who were still allowed to work despite lock-down. Health Minister Olivier Véran said on March 22: “Testing does not prevent the virus from spreading. (…) Confinement is the only way of curbing its spread.” He added that a testing campaign would be launched once confinement was lifted.
This went directly against Raoult’s recommendation to test massively and then isolate only the infected and above all, treat them.
The same absence of testing applied for many health-workers, including those looking after the dependent elderly in specialized institutions where, not unsurprisingly, mass contaminations and deaths took place among the residents in some parts of France.
From the beginning of lockdown on March 17, official guidelines required people who presented possible symptoms of COVID-19 to remain at home – together with those living with them – and use only paracetamol against fever, and only to call emergency services when experiencing serious respiratory distress. They would then be admitted to hospital (except for most residents of rest-homes for the elderly for whom treatment was largely not available): they could then receive oxygen, intubation and other emergency treatment. At this point, the lung infection would have progressed so far that a fatal outcome would become more likely.
Incidentally, hydroxychloroquine would be much less efficient at that point, even though there are documented cases of sudden improvement of patients in ICU’s who were near death and who were given HCQ, which has anti-inflammatory effects.
By the end of March, one week after confinement was imposed, the government’s prohibition to use HCQ as soon as a patient tested positive, combined with a refusal to test patients who were not (yet) in a severe condition, lead to protests, petitions and even an emergency appeal before the Council of State asking for a temporary modification of HCQ’s product license.
The emergency appeal was led by André Bonnet, a lawyer known for his successful legal campaigns against pornographic films accessible to minors. He asked the Council of State to allow off-label prescription of hydroxychloroquine, as the only existing treatment that patients themselves should have the opportunity of accepting or refusing through informed consent. His appeal was rejected but the slight easing of restrictions on 25 and 26 March brought a political answer to his process, when the new Health Minister, Olivier Véran allowed Raoult’s protocol to be used, but only in hospitals and only for severe cases.
Protesters included former high-ranking French public health officials as well as former health minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, a physician specialized in cardiology and a professor of epidemiology at the university of Toulouse. Several petitions were launched, including one led in the beginning of April by Douste-Blazy, that has received nearly 580,000 signatures at the time of writing.
Physicians resist political restrictions
A European study of four different treatments for COVID-19 was also announced and should have produced results by the end of April. “Discovery,” as it was dubbed, has yet to yield its data. One of the main problems encountered by its promoters was that COVID-19 patients refused to join because they did not want to find themselves in the control group, and especially because most of them wanted to receive Raoult’s treatment.
Over the weeks, a number of hospitals and family doctors decided to go ahead and prescribe hydroxychloroquine anyway. At the beginning of this month, at least one of those local doctors was threatened with disciplinary action on the part of the College of medicine for having prescribed HCQ outside of its official therapeutic indications.
At Pr Raoult’s infectology institute, patients are monitored for side-effects
In Marseille, Didier Raoult published successive papers claiming to have good results with his protocol, which – contrary to government guidelines – involved massive testing of all those who presented themselves at the IHU, and electrocardiograms before and during treatment with hydroxychloroquine (ECG’s were done every 48 hours on treated patients). The treatment was adapted for patients who would be more prone to its cardiac side effects because of their prior health condition.
Raoult consistently rejected criticism that his work had no scientific value because he was not doing research on “randomized” samples of patients and because he had no control group. He repeated that he was not acting as a researcher, but as a doctor who has the responsibility to give the best possible state-of-the-art treatment and the mission of healing patients.
Raoult has also repeatedly criticized “randomized” studies in which patients are chosen at random to receive treatment or a placebo, explaining that they are no better than “observational” studies. “Randomized” studies are “a scientific fashion among others,” he wrote in Le Quotidien du médecin. “The first duty of a doctor is healing, not experimenting,” he added. Raoult has personally developed ten widely-used treatments without ever using randomized studies, but “anecdotal observation” – looking at what happens to patients in real life – and “observation of correctly analyzed series.”
He added that 99 percent of treatments developed for infectious diseases were the result not of randomized studies but of individual initiative.
Together with his large team of doctors at the IHU-Méditerranée, he signed a statement saying that he was committed to treating his patients because of his Hippocratic oath, and that he would do so regardless of official guidelines.
Didier Raoult was also severely criticized in the international press and in the blogosphere, in particular in this article published by “For Better Science” which called him a “witchdoctor… barking mad and dangerous.” The article says chloroquine “kills,” which is at best a wild exaggeration given its widespread and safe use over more than 80 years. In any case Raoult uses the better-tolerated form of hydroxychloroquine.
The article accuses Raoult of all sorts of misconduct including irregularities in scientific papers, bullying, sexual harassment under his authority, and of treating people would not have been very sick anyway. It accuses him of having refused to treat patients who were very ill: whether this is true or not, it certainly squares with the fact that Raoult has always said that his protocol should be used at the beginning of infection. It also accuses him of treating 14-year-old children with “chloroquine” as if that were a crime, even though hydroxychloroquine is only deemed more dangerous for children less than six years old.
The black-out on hydroxychloroquine’s 80-year widespread use
The article talked about “human experiments” and “human guinea pigs” without recalling that HCQ has been prescribed and sold over-the-counter for many decades, a fact that obviously means that its use at the IHU was not related to unknown or potentially dangerous molecules. Dr Raoult has himself prescribed hydroxychloroquine with azithromycine “thousands of times” without negative results.
At the same time, no other treatment was being recommended anywhere in France where COVID-19 patients were being left to wait and see whether their condition would get worse or not, and many eventually lost their lives – a fact that “For Better Science” does not recall.
In fact, the tone of the “For Better Science” article is militant and aggressive – something that Raoult is not in his interviews and videos – and should be assessed in view of Raoult’s results with his treatment of the epidemic in Marseille, that we shall look at further on.
It appears that he is paying the price for being politically incorrect: Raoult has made statements casting doubt on manmade “global warming” because he is very wary of “modelization,” be if for climate change or for epidemics. Indeed, the wildest forecasts have been made about COVID-19, with Neil Ferguson of the Imperial College in the UK predicting that without heavy lockdown restrictions, up to 500,000 people would die of the disease in France alone: that is more than the present world count, at a time when the epidemic is slowing down fast in many regions. Raoult has repeatedly slammed computer modelling of epidemics, because it is often widely off mark, as Ferguson’s statements have proved. But it was Ferguson’s forecasts that prompted Boris Johnson to choose confinement for the UK.
Raoult: looking for a vaccine for a “non immunizing” disease is an “idiotic challenge”
Raoult has also suggested that looking for a vaccine for a disease that is “non-immunizing” – that is, a disease you can get more than once because antibodies are only efficient for a limited time or even no time at all – is an “idiotic challenge.”
In an interview on April 30, Raoult said: “Nearly $30 billion was spent on the one against HIV, and look at the result! (…) It is already difficult to vaccinate properly against the flu, so against a new virus… Honestly, the chance of a vaccine for an emerging disease becoming a public health tool is close to zero.”
Published: June 4, 2020