Hydroxychloroquine—The Political Drug

August 4, 2020 Updated: August 17, 2020

Commentary

There’s a long-standing convention that applies to the use of all medical drugs: A person considering the use of a drug for medical or prophylactic purposes is advised to consult with his or her physician about its possible use.

It’s assumed that the physician is up to date on current treatments and effective medicinal drugs. The physician also is familiar with the physical condition of his or her client. All drug advertisements end with the advice that a person considering the use of the drug advertised should consult with his or her physician about its possible use.

There has never been a time when either politicians, the mainstream media, or social media vehicles attempted to interfere in that vitally important relationship between physician and client and the use of prescription drugs.

Until now, that is. And that drug is hydroxychloroquine.

Recently, a group of physicians put out a video of a press conference that preceded their summit discussing the possible use of hydroxychloroquine, both as a prophylactic and treatment (in combination with zinc) for COVID-19.

Some of the doctors spoke. It was their belief that hydroxychloroquine was effective both as a prophylactic to prevent infection, and as a treatment for people who had become infected. The lead doctor, Simone Gold, explained that this group of doctors had come together solely for the purpose of better informing Americans who were caught up in what she called a “spider web of fear.”

The video emphasized the fact that many doctors have been silenced for advocating the use of hydroxychloroquine.

Some of the doctors in the video are well known in the medical community. Dr. Dan Erickson is famous for advocating against lockdowns. He has long promoted the “Swedish Model”—that is, allowing people to make their own social distancing decisions instead of mandating them by government decree, and allowing business owners and workers to make individual decisions, instead of the draconian big-government, total-shutdown model.

Dr. Jeffrey Barke, who spoke at the summit but not the press conference, is also well known. He’s one of the practicing physicians who has talked about all of the deaths, and other harmful effects of lockdowns, as well as his longstanding belief that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for COVID-19.

The doctors also discussed the use of hydroxychloroquine in other countries. In some countries, such as Indonesia and Iran, and in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, the drug can be purchased over the counter. It’s unknown how many people have taken the drug worldwide, but the number is large.

The doctors explained dosages and that hydroxychloroquine (and its almost identical predecessor, chloroquine) has been around for 65 years and is available in most countries as a safe, over-the-counter drug.

According to the doctors, all of the countries that have used hydroxychloroquine, both as a prophylactic and as a treatment for COVID-19 in its early stages, have lower death rates than Europe and the United States, where the drug’s use is discouraged for mainly political reasons.

The most outspoken of the doctors, a female doctor who trained in Nigeria, used the word “cure” when describing the drug. None of the other doctors who spoke at the press conference used that word, but it was quite clear from listening to all of the doctors that they were describing the drug as a treatment that would “improve outcome,” and not something that would provide an instant “cure.”

They explained that hydroxychloroquine, in combination with zinc and sometimes other drugs, would interrupt the progression of the illness and prevent it from fatally damaging the lungs. And yet, Facebook used the use of the word “cure” as an excuse for taking down a video made by this group of doctors, some of whom are quite prominent in their fields.

And the mainstream media went on full attack. That same female doctor who used the word “cure” apparently has some odd religious, or semi-religious views, completely unrelated to COVID-19. CNN, in particular, seized on those beliefs to discredit all of the distinguished doctors, and portray the consideration of hydroxychloroquine as something that is completely reckless, unscientific, and dangerous, despite the fact that the doctors pointed to studies and anecdotal accounts that it was an effective treatment.

What’s going on here? What did this group of distinguished and well-intentioned doctors do to deserve this kind of disrespectful treatment from journalists and high-tech billionaires? Why would political pundits and Facebook want to interfere in what should be a decision made by a person in consultation with his or her doctor? Why would they want to stop qualified doctors from giving opinions directly within their areas of expertise?

The answer is absolutely clear: President Donald Trump.

Since Trump first gave his personal opinion that hydroxychloroquine looked to be promising as a prophylactic and treatment for COVID-19, the media has been unrelenting in its campaign to discredit any hint that it might be useful.

Trump said the drug was cheap, safe, and might work, and asked, “What have you got to lose?” He later revealed that he had taken it himself with no side effects.

And that’s probably the same basic analysis that doctors who prescribe the drug use. It might work—it might not. If it doesn’t, the person is no worse off, except for the few dollars it costs. If it does work, it might save his or her life.

But after Trump spoke about the possible benefits of hydroxychloroquine, the media reaction and political fallout was almost unhinged. It became clear that this drug was to receive media treatment like no other drug in history. CNN, in particular, went on what can only be described as an all-out campaign to discredit any possible use of the drug.

Some states prohibited pharmacists from honoring doctors’ prescriptions for the drug. This was unprecedented interference in the vital doctor–patient relationship. Effectively, it turned the pharmacist into the doctor’s superior.

I won’t attempt to review the studies that have been done to date on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine. Suffice it to say that some indicate that the drug has a positive effect on the disease, while others say it has no effect. Obviously, long-term, double-blind, peer-reviewed studies will be required to provide the final word on the question. At this point, it simply isn’t definitively known if the drug works, or not.

The point is that some doctors believe that lives can be saved by using the drug now. Those long-term “gold-standard” studies critics insist on are just that—long term. They will take years. In the meantime, enormous numbers of lives could possibly be saved by using the drug. The doctors should have the unhindered right to prescribe hydroxychloroquine in cases in which they think it might save lives.

Insisting on “gold-standard” tests for hydroxychloroquine tests that will take years makes no sense when the need is urgent. The question must be asked why other promising drugs, such as dexamethasone, that haven’t been subject to those “gold-standard” tests for COVID-19 treatment, are being regularly used, while the much safer and cheaper hydroxychloroquine is arbitrarily kept from the public.

When vaccines become available, would any public health official suggest that experimental vaccines must be kept from the public until year-long studies are conducted? The answer is clearly “no.” It’s already been announced that vaccines will be made widely available as soon as they can be produced in quantity. The fact is that hydroxychloroquine is considered to be the “Trump drug.” As a result, an entirely different and unreasonable standard has been applied to it.

Hydroxychloroquine has become the world’s first political drug. Trump-haters hate the drug, and don’t want to see it work. It’s as simple as that. The fact that this is madness—that lives will be saved if it does work—seems to make no difference to these zealots.

But regardless of one’s political opinions, it’s only responsible that all promising treatments must be fully explored. And it should be unacceptable that the opinions of qualified frontline physicians should be censored for political purposes. The doctors should be free to express their opinions about hydroxychloroquine openly, just as colleagues who disagree with them now have the right to do. Their viewpoints shouldn’t be stifled by politicians, a biased media, or Facebook or Google executives. Citizens can then make up their own minds, in consultation with their doctors, after considering all the information.

The hydroxychloroquine issue will be definitively answered sometime down the road. If it transpires that the drug doesn’t work, some people who advocated for its use will be embarrassed, and the people who used it will have wasted the few dollars that it cost.

On the other hand, if it turns out that it does work, and that tens of thousands of lives were lost simply because self-serving politicians and a biased media didn’t want Trump to have the satisfaction of saying “I told you so,” an injustice of epic proportions will have been committed. Thousands of people will have died for reasons of petty politics.

While the threat of COVID-19 lasts, I’m personally making sure that I’m taking the recommended doses of zinc and vitamin D, because there’s some evidence that both might have some protective properties to prevent CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus infection.

I’m also questioning my physician on the possible use of hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic. I will satisfy myself that my physician is up to date on the latest hydroxychloroquine studies, and then make a decision about using it. If I become infected with the CCP virus, I plan to question my physician about the use of hydroxychloroquine in combination with zinc, azithromycin, and possibly other drugs.

In the meantime, I want to have access to the best medical and scientific evidence available. That includes all of the information presented by any qualified doctors I care to listen to—without censorship from Google or Facebook, biased politicians, or CNN pundits.

Everyone should demand that right.

Brian Giesbrecht is a retired judge and a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.