AS we head for the end of the year, we are re-running our ten most-read blogs of 2020, in reverse order. Today’s article, which topped the chart by a large margin, was first published on May 26, 2020.
MYSTERY surrounds why an anti-malaria drug is not being tested as a Covid-19 treatment in combination with zinc, which doctors say is crucial for efficacy.
As we reported recently, President Trump revealed he was taking hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) alongside zinc after reports that many doctors are doing the same to help ward off Covid-19.
Criticism of the President rose sharply after a non-randomised study published in the Lancet said that HCQ provided no benefit to hospitalised Covid-19 patients while being linked to increased deaths.
What the mainstream media did not point out is that the Lancet study failed to test HCQ with zinc. Other experts have found zinc to be vital for efficacy in this context.
Zinc, available as an over-the-counter supplement, has long been seen as an immune-system booster that helps develop immune cells, or antibodies, and can strengthen the body’s response to a virus.
American infectious disease specialist Joseph Rahimian explained that, in relation to Covid-19, zinc ‘does the heavy lifting and is the primary substance attacking the pathogen’. HCQ is said to work as a delivery systemfor zinc in fighting coronavirus.
Ironically, the Lancet study came out at the same time as it was reported that India’s premier health body had expanded use of HCQ as a preventive for key workers following three studies showing positive results.
Conflicting reports and political axe-grinding have thickened the fog of war on this, but we know a number of things:
1 HCQ has been around for decades and is a ‘safe’ treatment for malaria and other conditions including lupus and arthritis (as the BBC has acknowledged).
2 Many doctors (and India) use HCQ as a preventive measure, as President Trump is now doing. A survey of doctors by a leading American physician staffing firm found that 65 per cent would give HCQ to their own family as a prevention or treatment. The UK is now conducting trials into whether HCQ can help prevent Covid-19. Results are not expected before the end of the year, although there will be results sooner from similar trials in the US.
3 International experience suggests HCQ can be effective in tackling Covid. Reports from France, Italy and Spain point to positive results from the use of HCQ, while a number of other countries are seeing success including Turkey, Costa Rica, Algeria, Belgium and Bahrain. This month a Shanghai-based doctor reported that, in China, a combination of zinc, hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin ‘has been able to save coronavirus patients’.
4 Many prominent Americans are taking HCQ to treat Covid-19 (and recovering) even as opponents attack President Trump for following the lead of many doctors. Hall of Fame rock star David Bryan, best known as the keyboardist for Bon Jovi, tested positive and was treated with HCQ, among other things. By late April, he was said to have recovered. Former Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar has now admitted her husband was treated with HCQ after he contracted coronavirus. After his rapid recovery, Senator Klobuchar said (through gritted teeth): ‘I believe he did briefly take that drug.’
Sadly it doesn’t seem to be the priority of most mainstream journalists, and some in the scientific community, to report the facts on HCQ in a responsible manner. As political commentator Scott Adams recently pointed out, the corporate news (CNN, Fox News etc) has no credibility when it comes to reporting on pharmaceuticals. In this context, this may be partly due to politics, but it is also a result of their financial stake in drug advertising.
With regard to reporting of the Lancet’s finding about increased deaths, Adams asked whether this should be seen as a surprise ‘given that we know the HCQ can have some heart issues with people who already have heart issues. Do [elderly people who are dying from coronavirus] have strong hearts? Probably not’.
He added: ‘What they don’t do on CNN is mention that if you don’t test it with the zinc [then] I’m not sure that you’ve really tested the thing that has the most promise. Where is that [test]?’
He has a point. A number of doctors say zinc is essential.
California emergency physician Dr Anthony Cardillo said during a local television interview: ‘[HCQ] really only works in conjunction with zinc. Every patient I have prescribed it to has been very, very ill and within eight to twelve hours they were basically symptom-free and so clinically I am seeing a resolution.’
This frontline experience was backed up by a study by the New York University Grossman School of Medicine published this month. It found that those receiving the triple-drug combination (HCQ, with azithromycin and, crucially, zinc) ‘were 44 per cent less likely to die, compared with the double-drug combination (i.e. without zinc)’.
As the study notes:‘This study provides the first in vivo evidence that zinc sulfate in combination with hydroxychloroquine may play a role in therapeutic management for Covid-19.’
The above makes the question of why zinc was not used in the Lancet study more baffling. And why don’t the media note that the combination of zinc and HCQ is crucial?
As Scott Adams put it: ‘When they say the President is taking this drug that is killing people . . . it is not true. It is basically a lie . . . Both Fox News and CNN are doing something is completely illegitimate . . . I don’t know any reason you would do that other than to mislead.’
Sadly, with a Presidential election approaching, it’s doubtful whether the barrage of fake news over this treatment will be replaced by professional reporting. We can only hope that the truth – whatever it may be – will win out in the end.
The purpose of this piece is to highlight specific aspects of a topic of major concern for readers in the hope that it might be more effectively addressed, in the interest of public information, by the UK authorities and by the media. It does not seek to offer expert opinion about medical treatment, nor is the author qualified to do so. Medical advice, and advice about treatment, should be sought only from a qualified professional.