Donald Trump spent Monday on Twitter touting an outlier study published by the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan about an anti-malarial drug he has previously presented as a 'miracle' cure for COVID-19.
"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," Trump tweeted. "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 percent of those treated with hydroxychloroquine alone died compared to 26.4 percent not treated with hydroxychloroquine."
The findings of the study have been disputed by other researchers.
Soon after, Trump retweeted a video segment produced by Sinclair Broadcasting about the study. The host, Sharyl Attkisson, has previously claimed that mainstream media rejected the drug because Trump was promoting it.
A few hours later, he returned to the topic, tweeting that the "highly respected Henry Ford Health System just reported, based on a large sampling, that HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE cut the death rate in certain sick patients very significantly." He complained that Democrats had "disparaged it for political reasons (me!). Disgraceful," and instructed the Food and Drug Administration to "act now."
The new study, based on a nonrandom observational sample, comes after several other studies have showed the medicine is of little benefit as a treatment for the coronavirus. The Food and Drug Adminstration issued a warning in April that it should not be used to treat COVID-19 out of hospital and clinical settings, as it can cause "heart rhythm problems."
In a commentary in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases last week, responding to the Henry Ford Health System study, several other researchers noted that other factors could explain the difference in results. They observed that the patients who received hydroxychloroquine were more than twice as likely to have received steroids as well, writing, "This is relevant considering the recent RECOVERY trial that showed a mortality benefit with dexamethasone."
Trump has been claiming for months that the unproven remedy could cure and prevent the coronavirus.
"HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine," he tweeted in March.
While acknowledging that the drug was not a panacea, he urged people to try it anyway. "What do you have to lose?" he asked at an April event.
Despite the growing evidence against the drug's efficacy, Trump announced in May that he was taking hydroxychloroquine preventively. "I started taking it, because I think it's good," he told reporters.
Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, told Science Magazine in June that Trump's "obsession" with the drug was problematic.
"It just seems like we are ignoring signal after signal," he warned. "We'd be better off shifting our attention to drugs that might actually work."
While Trump blamed Democrats for pushback against his claims, it was his own administration that pulled the plug on hydroxychloroquine as an emergency treatment.
"Today's request to revoke is based on new information, including clinical trial data results, that have led [the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority] to conclude that this drug may not be effective to treat COVID-19 [Coronavirus Disease 2019] and that the drug's potential benefits for such use do not outweigh its known and potential risks," FDA chief scientist Denise Hinton wrote.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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