By now you probably know all about the viral video of Dr. Stella Immanuel, a physician in Houston born in Cameroon who gave an impassioned speech on the steps of the Supreme Court yesterday touting the benefits of hydroxychloroquine, zinc and azithromycin as a protocol for treating COVID-19. Immanuel was one of several doctors who spoke at an event put on by a group called America’s Frontline Doctors; the group is holding a two-day conference in Washington aimed at giving a “second opinion” dissenting from the public health establishment’s insistence on mask mandates and rejection of the hydroxychloroquine protocol, sometimes called the Zelenko protocol after the doctor in New York City who first promoted it, as ineffective against the virus.
Here’s a long-form version of Dr. Immanuel’s story from the actual conference, which has much more of her background and experience.
There is another video of Dr. Immanuel from the steps of the Supreme Court. That one is harder to show you, because it’s being systematically taken down – by YouTube, by Twitter and by Facebook.
On Monday evening, Facebook scrubbed from its site a viral video showing a group of doctors making misleading and false claims about the coronavirus pandemic after more than 14 million people had watched it. Hours later, President Trump tweeted out multiple clips of the same video to his 84.2 million followers.
Trump shared the video — which claims that face masks and lockdowns are not needed to stop the disease — as he shared 14 tweets over a half-hour span defending the use of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug that the president has repeatedly promoted, and attacking Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert.
Twitter soon followed Facebook and YouTube in removing the videos, deleting several of the tweets that Trump shared, and even adding a note to its trending topics warning about the potential risks of hydroxychloroquine use.
“Tweets with the video are in violation of our covid-19 misinformation policy,” Liz Kelley, a spokeswoman for Twitter, told The Washington Post.
Trump’s decision to share the misleading video comes amid mounting criticism, from opponents and allies alike, over his handling of a pandemic that has now killed at least 145,000 people in the United States. The president spent months obstinately denying the severity of the crisis, refusing to wear a mask in public, blaming rising case numbers on testing, and campaigning against governors’ shutdown orders. In recent weeks, however, Trump has occasionally changed tack, donning a mask in public for the first time earlier this month and deciding to cancel the Republican National Convention celebrations set to take place in Jacksonville, Fla.
But on Monday, the president again turned to promoting a drug that the Food and Drug Administration warns carries significant health risks, and portraying the widely accepted scientific consensus on its use as an attack on his reelection campaign.
The video Trump shared Monday night showed a collection of doctors speaking in favor of treating covid-19 patients with the antimalarial drug. The clip focused on the testimony of a woman named Stella Immanuel, who received a medical license in Texas last November, according to state records. The doctor did not return a request for comment.
An image from a now-deleted post retweeted by President Trump, which shared a viral video promoting false information about the novel coronavirus pandemic. (Twitter)
Something is very strange here.
We’re not talking about a drug without a track record here. Hydroxychloroquine isn’t snake oil. It isn’t Hadacol. It’s been used for decades as an anti-malarial, and it’s commonly used to treat a myriad of ailments like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
And only very recently has anyone said hydroxychloroquine is dangerous. That’s why Dr. Immanuel says on the video that she was shocked to hear it isn’t safe.
Moreover, Dr. Immanuel isn’t some quack on a roadside somewhere. Doctors around the country have been prescribing HCQ to treat COVID-19. The Henry Ford Medical Foundation did a study of the drug among over 2,500 hospital patients and found that it cut death rates in half.
Treatment with hydroxychloroquine cut the death rate significantly in sick patients hospitalized with COVID-19 – and without heart-related side-effects, according to a new study published by Henry Ford Health System.
In a large-scale retrospective analysis of 2,541 patients hospitalized between March 10 and May 2, 2020 across the system’s six hospitals, the study found 13% of those treated with hydroxychloroquine alone died compared to 26.4% not treated with hydroxychloroquine. None of the patients had documented serious heart abnormalities; however, patients were monitored for a heart condition routinely pointed to as a reason to avoid the drug as a treatment for COVID-19.
The study was published today in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, the peer-reviewed, open-access online publication of the International Society of Infectious Diseases (ISID.org).
Patients treated with hydroxychloroquine at Henry Ford met specific protocol criteria as outlined by the hospital system’s Division of Infectious Diseases. The vast majority received the drug soon after admission; 82% within 24 hours and 91% within 48 hours of admission. All patients in the study were 18 or over with a median age of 64 years; 51% were men and 56% African American.
“The findings have been highly analyzed and peer-reviewed,” said Dr. Marcus Zervos, division head of Infectious Disease for Henry Ford Health System, who co-authored the study with Henry Ford epidemiologist Samia Arshad. “We attribute our findings that differ from other studies to early treatment, and part of a combination of interventions that were done in supportive care of patients, including careful cardiac monitoring. Our dosing also differed from other studies not showing a benefit of the drug. And other studies are either not peer reviewed, have limited numbers of patients, different patient populations or other differences from our patients.”
Zervos said the potential for a surge in the fall or sooner, and infections continuing worldwide, show an urgency to identifying inexpensive and effective therapies and preventions.
“We’re glad to add to the scientific knowledge base on the role and how best to use therapies as we work around the world to provide insight,” he said. “Considered in the context of current studies on the use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19, our results suggest that the drug may have an important role to play in reducing COVID-19 mortality.”
The study also found those treated with azithromycin alone or a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin also fared slightly better than those not treated with the drugs, according to the Henry Ford data. The analysis found 22.4% of those treated only with azithromycin died, and 20.1% treated with a combination of azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine died, compared to 26.4% of patients dying who were not treated with either medication.
“Our analysis shows that using hydroxychloroquine helped saves lives,” said neurosurgeon Dr. Steven Kalkanis, CEO, Henry Ford Medical Group and Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer of Henry Ford Health System. “As doctors and scientists, we look to the data for insight. And the data here is clear that there was benefit to using the drug as a treatment for sick, hospitalized patients.”
The Henry Ford study discouraged the use of HCQ in outpatient settings. Other doctors disagree as Dr. Immanuel does, arguing it’s even more effective when used as a prophylactic or a first-resort to patients testing positive for the virus.
Among them is Yale epidemiology professor Harvey Risch, who last week penned an op-ed in Newsweek touting HCQ as the key to beating COVID-19. Risch is certainly no crank; his placement at Yale ought to give him some credibility with the establishment types who reflexively dismiss as “misinformation” any claims that HCQ might work against the virus.
Physicians who have been using these medications in the face of widespread skepticism have been truly heroic. They have done what the science shows is best for their patients, often at great personal risk. I myself know of two doctors who have saved the lives of hundreds of patients with these medications, but are now fighting state medical boards to save their licenses and reputations. The cases against them are completely without scientific merit.
Why has hydroxychloroquine been disregarded?
First, as all know, the medication has become highly politicized. For many, it is viewed as a marker of political identity, on both sides of the political spectrum. Nobody needs me to remind them that this is not how medicine should proceed. We must judge this medication strictly on the science. When doctors graduate from medical school, they formally promise to make the health and life of the patient their first consideration, without biases of race, religion, nationality, social standing—or political affiliation. Lives must come first.
Second, the drug has not been used properly in many studies. Hydroxychloroquine has shown major success when used early in high-risk people but, as one would expect for an antiviral, much less success when used late in the disease course. Even so, it has demonstrated significant benefit in large hospital studies in Michigan and New York City when started within the first 24 to 48 hours after admission.
In fact, as inexpensive, oral and widely available medications, and a nutritional supplement, the combination of hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin or doxycycline, and zinc are well-suited for early treatment in the outpatient setting. The combination should be prescribed in high-risk patients immediately upon clinical suspicion of COVID-19 disease, without waiting for results of testing. Delays in waiting before starting the medications can reduce their efficacy.
Third, concerns have been raised by the FDA and others about risks of cardiac arrhythmia, especially when hydroxychloroquine is given in combination with azithromycin. The FDA based its comments on data in its FDA Adverse Event Reporting System. This reporting system captured up to a thousand cases of arrhythmias attributed to hydroxychloroquine use. In fact, the number is likely higher than that, since the reporting system, which requires physicians or patients to initiate contact with the FDA, appreciably undercounts drug side effects.
But what the FDA did not announce is that these adverse events were generated from tens of millions of patient uses of hydroxychloroquine for long periods of time, often for the chronic treatment of lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Even if the true rates of arrhythmia are ten-fold higher than those reported, the harms would be minuscule compared to the mortality occurring right now in inadequately treated high-risk COVID-19 patients. This fact is proven by an Oxford University study of more than 320,000 older patients taking both hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, who had arrhythmia excess death rates of less than 9/100,000 users, as I discuss in my May 27 paper cited above. A new paper in the American Journal of Medicine by established cardiologists around the world fully agrees with this.
We’re certainly not virologists or physicians here at The Hayride, but we are connoisseurs and purveyors of information and debate. There are credible experts in the medical field who are active in using HCQ to fight COVID-19; this is unquestionably true, and there is scholarship available to at least suggest it is effective.
But Big Tech appears determined to quash a legitimate medical debate over an inexpensive, time-tested medication to such an extent that doctors are not allowed to even talk about whether hydroxychloroquine can cure COVID-19 patients without it being taken down by non-doctors as “misinformation.”
Something is very, very wrong here. It doesn’t smell right. It certainly doesn’t smell American. We can spin up all kinds of theories about why this is happening, but at the end of the day those theories don’t really matter. The suppression of information about a potential treatment for COVID-19 is creepy, it’s wrong and it needs to stop.