HCQ – an immorality tale

A fascinating discussion of the politicisation of HCQ with this as part of a very long story told here: Hydroxychloroquine: A Morality Tale by Dr Norman Doige.

No one wants to enter cancel-culture territory but this brings him close. He nevertheless describes what happens after Trump stated that HCQ might be beneficial in treating Covid.

Trump’s political base cheered for HCQ and his opponents booed and accused him of practicing medicine without a license—and began dredging up any evidence, or “experts,” they could find, who might emphasize that HCQ was dangerous, or useless, or both, and thus they responded to his hyperbole with their own, and then some. As Risch observed in Newsweek, for many HCQ became “viewed as a marker of political identity, on both sides of the political spectrum.”

CNN began a nonstop campaign criticizing the safety of the drug, holding Trump responsible for three people who overdosed on it in Nigeria. Rivals went after Raoult, now tainted because Trump had mentioned his work. A New York Times profile depicted the scholar-physician as a Trump doppelganger, with his, “funny hair” and, being a man “who thinks almost everyone else is stupid,” who “is beloved by the angry and the conspiracy-minded.” Headlines such as, “Why does Trump call an 86-year-old unproven drug a game-changer against coronavirus?” were common. Stories began equating HCQ with Trump (“Trump’s drug”) and emphasized not only that it was dangerous, but that HCQ was old. And old was definitely not good. The implication was that far better than old was some new drug—that wasn’t yet invented, never mind tested—that might be in the utopian “pipeline” to the always better medical future.

What the media, and public health officials, did not report at the time was how poor people’s chances were should they go to hospital and need intensive care for the illness. Hospitals were finding that 80% of people put on mechanical ventilators died. All the commentators who railed that HCQ was “unproven” because there had been no randomized control trials (RCTs) didn’t mention that standard ventilation treatment for COVID-19, which had become treatment-as-usual overnight for severe cases, had no RCTs supporting it either. There was a double standard as far as HCQ was concerned.

Our poor protagonist, HCQ, could now go nowhere in a hyperpoliticized America without being hectored and called “Trump’s drug.” In the media, HCQ was now “touted,” “hyped,” and not “recommended” or “prescribed,” by the physicians who advocated for it. If someone took the do-it-yourself approach, as in the sad story of the Arizona man who, terrified out of his wits of the coronavirus, along with his wife, drank fish tank cleaner mixed with soda, because she had noticed it had among its ingredients, “chloroquine phosphate.” His death was blamed on “a chemical that has been hailed recently by President Trump …”

This was all happening at a moment when clinicians working 12- to 15-hour shifts, seven days a week with COVID patients, probably had more knowledge of the disease and its treatment than any studies could yet provide. During this first-wave HCQ-chastisement by the American media, a survey study of 6,200 frontline physicians in 30 countries showed that, worldwide, HCQ was chosen by the physicians, from among 15 options, as what they thought was the most effective treatment for patients (37% chose HCQ). The other drug the physicians thought highly of was azithromycin.

But in the United States, HCQ was embroiled in the Republican-Democratic rivalry. On March 12, Michigan State Representative Karen Whitsett, a Democrat representing the 9th Michigan House District in Detroit, went into quarantine for cornavirus symptoms, and by March 31 got her test results and was diagnosed with such a serious case of COVID-19 that she thought she was dying. She and her physician, Dr. Mohammed Arsiwala, sought permission to use HCQ but could not get it, because the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, under Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, had issued an order prohibiting the use of HCQ for COVID-19.

The politics of HCQ are a tale of such sordid malevolence (see Daniel Andrews for a local example). Read the article if you have the time. As I say, it’s long, but this is what you find at the end.

A public health establishment, showing extraordinary risk aversion to medications and treatments that are extremely well-known, and had been used by billions, suddenly throwing caution to the wind and endorsing the roll-out of treatments that are entirely novel—and about which we literally can’t possibly know anything, as regards to their long-term effects. Their manufacturers know this well themselves, which is why they have aimed for, insisted on, and have already been granted indemnification—guaranteed, by those same public health officials and government that they will not be held legally accountable should their product cause injury.

From unheard of extremes of caution and “unwishful thinking,” to unheard of extremes of risk-taking, and recklessly wishful thinking, this double standard, this about-face, is not happening because this issue of public safety is really so complex a problem that only our experts can understand it; it is happening because there is, right now, a much bigger problem: with our experts, and with the institutions that we had trusted to help solve our most pressing scientific and medical problems. Unless these are attended to, HCQ won’t be remembered simply as that major medical issue that no one could agree on, and which left overwhelming controversy, confusion, and possibly unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands in its wake; it will be one of many in a chain of such disasters.

You do know it’s almost entirely about Trump and about almost nothing else.

1 thought on “HCQ – an immorality tale

  1. Pingback: HCQ – an immorality tale - The Rabbit Hole

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