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“The study was a complete failure”

Published on April 19th, 2020

President Trump has been a cheerleader for the drug hydroxychloroquine, pointing in a tweet and in person to a French study as evidence that one particular drug combination might be “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.”  Once again, he is an idiot with no medical training.

Dr. Kevin Tracey, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research in New York City, gave an even more pointed assessment of the French research. “The study was a complete failure,” he said.
“It was pathetic,” added Art Caplan, head of the division of medical ethics at the New York University School of Medicine.   Leaving out the five patients who took the drug and didn’t fare well is “cherry picking,” said Caplan, the bioethicist.  “That’s not science,” he said. “You’ve got your thumb on the scale.”  Caplan added that even without the “cherry picking” issue, a study with such a small number of patients is basically meaningless.  “It’s just a jumbled mess,” he said.
The small French study of 20 people found that taking hydroxychloroquine was associated with the “viral load reduction/disappearance in COVID-19 patients,” noting that the effect was “reinforced” with azithromycin, an antibiotic better known as a Z-pack.  However, Tracey and Caplan pointed out that several patients who took the drug, and ended up faring poorly, dropped out of the trial, and their outcomes were not factored into the study’s final conclusions.
The International Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy published the study online in its journal, the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, on March 20.  The society admitted that “concerns have been raised regarding the content, the ethical approval of the trial and the process that this paper underwent to be published within International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents.”   That statement by Andreas Voss, president of the society, said the study “does not meet the Society’s expected standard” and that “although ISAC recognises it is important to help the scientific community by publishing new data fast, this cannot be at the cost of reducing scientific scrutiny and best practices.”
Despite the lack of qualification or scientific evidence, Trump decided that chloroquine was a “game changer” at a White House briefing.  Two days later, on March 21, Trump referred to the French study in a tweet, saying that the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin “have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine. The FDA has moved mountains — Thank You!”  Trump’s enthusiasm for hydroxychloroquine hasn’t waned with time, even though it has not been proven to be safe or effective.  “We have some very good results and some very good tests. You’ve seen the same test that I have,” he said at an April 5 briefing. “In France, they had a very good test.”
Now the medical society that published the French research has issued a statement saying they’re reviewing the study again and “a correction to the scientific record may be considered.”
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