‘The key to defeating COVID-19 already exists. We need to start using it,’ Yale Epidemic Professor says
In an op-ed post in Newsweek magazine, Dr. Harvey A. Risch, MD, PhD, a professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health, said the key to defeating COVID-19 already exists. Dr. Risch, who has authored over 300 peer-reviewed publications and currently holds senior positions on the editorial boards of several leading journals, is calling on government and health officials to start using hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug that has been shown to lower coronavirus death rate in half for COVID-19 patients without heart-related side-effects, according to a study conducted by Henry Ford Health.
Dr. Risch opined that hydroxychloroquine has shown to be highly effective when the drug is given very early in the course of illness, especially when given in combination with the antibiotics azithromycin or doxycycline and the nutritional supplement zinc. To corroborate his points, Dr. Risch alluded to an article he published in the American Journal of Epidemiology (AJE) on May 27 titled, “Early Outpatient Treatment of Symptomatic, High-Risk COVID-19 Patients that Should be Ramped-Up Immediately as Key to the Pandemic Crisis.” In the article, Dr. Risch analyzed five studies, that demonstrated clear-cut and significant benefits to treated patients, plus other very large studies that showed the medication safety.
Since publication of his May 27 article, Dr. Risch said seven more studies have demonstrated similar benefit of hydroxychloroquine. In a detailed follow-up letter, also published by AJE, Dr. Risch further explained the seven studies and called for the immediate early use of hydroxychloroquine in high-risk patients.
These seven studies include: an additional 400 high-risk patients treated by Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, with zero deaths; four studies totaling almost 500 high-risk patients treated in nursing homes and clinics across the U.S., with no deaths; a controlled trial of more than 700 high-risk patients in Brazil, with significantly reduced risk of hospitalization and two deaths among 334 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine; and another study of 398 matched patients in France, also with significantly reduced hospitalization risk. Since my letter was published, even more doctors have reported to me their completely successful use.
In addition to the studies of individual patients, Dr. Risch also cited countries where the drug has proven to show promising results. “In the northern Brazil state of Pará,” he said, “COVID-19 deaths were increasing exponentially. On April 6, the public hospital network purchased 75,000 doses of azithromycin and 90,000 doses of hydroxychloroquine. Over the next few weeks, authorities began distributing these medications to infected individuals. Even though new cases continued to occur, on May 22 the death rate started to plummet and is now about one-eighth what it was at the peak.”
Dr. Risch is not alone in talking about the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine. Brazilian President Bolsonaro has been touting and endorses hydroxychloroquine as a national drug for treatment of coronavirus. On July 9, President Bolsonaro said he has Covid-19 symptoms. He was later tested positive for COVID-19. So, what’s the best way to prove that hyroxychloroquine works? Instead of using expensive drugs like remdesivir, President Bolsonaro decided to be treated with the same drug he has been promoting for months.
President Bolsonaro said he is confident of swiftly recovering from Covid-19 as he has been treated with hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that has not been proven effective against coronavirus. On the same day, he posted a video of himself on Facebook taking hydroxychloroquine. On July 25, less than three weeks after tested positive for COVID-19, Bolsonaro announced on Twitter that he tests negative for the virus using hydroxychloroquine.
So, why has hydroxychloroquine been disregarded? According to Dr. Risch, the malaria drug has now become the victim of a “propaganda war.” Dr. Risch said, “It’s a political drug now, not a medical drug.” He added: “I think we are basically fighting a propaganda war against the medical facts, and that colors not just population people, how they think about it, but doctors, as well.”
Second, Dr. Risch said hydroxychloroquine has not been used properly in many studies. He stated that hydroxychloroquine has shown major success when used early in high-risk people but much less success when used late in the disease course. Third, Dr. Risch said hydroxychloroquine has been disregarded due to concerns raised by the FDA and others about risks of cardiac arrhythmia, especially when hydroxychloroquine is given in combination with azithromycin. However, Dr. Risch argues that “the FDA based its comments on data in its FDA Adverse Event Reporting System.”
Dr, Risch went on to counter the FDA claim using an Oxford University study. According to the study, less than 9/100,000 users had arrhythmia out of more than 320,000 older patients taking both hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. Dr. Rish concludes the op-ed with the following:
“In the future, I believe this misbegotten episode regarding hydroxychloroquine will be studied by sociologists of medicine as a classic example of how extra-scientific factors overrode clear-cut medical evidence. But for now, reality demands a clear, scientific eye on the evidence and where it points. For the sake of high-risk patients, for the sake of our parents and grandparents, for the sake of the unemployed, for our economy and for our polity, especially those disproportionally affected, we must start treating immediately.”