‘DEPART from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it’ – Psalm 34:13
It isn’t usual for a doctor to start an interview quoting from Scripture, but Dr Vladimir ‘Zev’ Zelenko sometimes does.
Someone who believes in God and orders his life according to his faith makes a bad start with the secular world. Being a ‘simple country doctor’ – his description – is another downer. A ‘Board Certified Family Practitioner’ is America’s closest equivalent to a British GP; Dr Zev has degrees in chemistry as well as medicine, but chose to practise as the family doctor to a close-living orthodox Jewish community in New York state.
When Covid-19 came to America, Dr Zev had a problem. If it took hold, he realised that it would rip through his community like measles through the native Americans. Unlike the NHS, still insisting – in defiance of the evidence – that ‘there is no treatment’, Dr Zelenko looked around for what the NHS apparatchiks say doesn’t exist, or can only be found in randomised clinical trials taking months to conclude.
He found it from Chinese and Korean reports, and from Professor Didier Raoult in Marseille, with his combination of the old anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine and the equally well-known antibiotic azithromycin, standard for chlamydia, and active also against viruses like Zika and Ebola. He also did some of the reading which the Oxford professors running the RECOVERY clinical trials failed to do.
RECOVERY’s information documents parrot this: ‘Chloroquine blocks virus infection by increasing endosomal pH required for virus/cell fusion, as well as interfering with the glycosylation of cellular receptors of SARS-CoV.’ It’s a word-for-word lift from an early February paper in Nature: Cell Research. Very likely these phenomena are indeed part of the anti-viral mechanism of hydroxychloroquine, but they missed completely something else.
By the second week in March, the idea was being openly discussed in a regular series of medical updates on the coronavirus (though unnoticed by the Oxford professors). The March 10 video now shows over a million views.
Zinc was known since 2010 to poison not just coronaviruses, but other RNA viruses too. It’s why zinc supplements are sometimes tried to prevent colds. It blocks a critical enzyme called RNA-dependent RNA polymerase, or ‘replicase’ for short. (Many enzymes are called ‘something-ase’ where ‘something’ hints at what it does). This enzyme is fundamental to the virus’s ability to copy itself. Poison the replicase: it’s ‘game over’ for the virus. There’s one snag: zinc exists in the body as a charged ion, so cannot easily cross cell membranes into the cell where it’s needed. But in 2014 it was found that chloroquine functions as a ‘zinc ionophore’, enabling zinc to cross cell membranes. The cancer researchers who discovered it weren’t thinking about viruses at all, but there it was.
Armed with those two simple facts, Dr Zev did the obvious, and added zinc supplements to the ‘Marseille cocktail’. Thus the ‘Zelenko Protocol’ (zinc, hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin) was born.
As Dr Zev now puts it: ‘Zinc is the bullet. Hydroxychloroquine is the gun.’
Some of this was outlined by Joseph Berry here on TCW in May. Azithromycin, originally there to treat bacterial infections on top of the virus, has anti-viral effects of its own, and according to the Marseille team further enhances the anti-viral effect of hydroxychloroquine.
Being possessed of a moral simplicity, Dr Zev instantly shared his results with open letters to ‘medical professionals around the world’ (March 23) with simple summaries, and to President Trump (April 7). A New York Times piece referred to him as a ‘Right-wing hero’. For the American Left, a doctor doing the best for his patients, curing an unknown disease, is now, apparently, being ‘Right-wing’. Trump’s endorsement of hydroxychloroquine set off immediate opposition to the drug from his political opponents; Dr Zev has had to live with that for months. And a full-time GP doesn’t have the time to write academic papers, so is easy to ignore.
That changed on Friday morning, when Dr Zev released a preprint of a long-awaited paper, co-authored with Professor Dr Martin Scholz of the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, and Dr Roland Derwand, who had both previously published on zinc as a co-factor to hydroxychloroquine.
The outcomes from Dr Zev’s medical practice are now available for the world in a research paper. (Actually they always were, but some people pretend they can ignore all evidence not presented in sufficiently formal clothes).
Dr Zev has now seen some 2,200 Covid-19 patients. Having lost one lung himself to a rare arterial sarcoma, he would in the UK probably have been ordered to shelter inside. Instead he sees patients in person, without a mask, confident in the prophylaxis that he takes (hydroxychloroquine and zinc).
He doesn’t treat everyone. Young and otherwise healthy sweat it out (unless they get worse). Only 800 high-risk patients have been treated. These are not patients who would mostly recover anyway, proving nothing much about the treatment. No, they are the ones over 60, those with ‘co-morbidities’ or already short of breath, all of whom have a serious risk of ending up in hospital, or dead. Except on Dr Zev’s treatment, they usually don’t.
Of 141 patients proved to have covid-19 by specific tests, only one died, and only four were hospitalised. The rest recovered at home. Remember these were the high-risk cases, not the easy ones.
To fend off nit-pickers, only the patients with positive tests are included in the report. Not all patients needed testing; around a third had loss of smell or taste, symptoms now recognised as diagnostic for Covid, even in the UK. Not all patients could access tests (Matt Hancock will sympathise), and because results can take days to arrive, when time is of the essence, Dr Zev often starts treatment on clinical diagnosis without waiting for test results.
A bonus lies in a ‘control’ group of patients who didn’t get the ‘Zelenko Protocol’. This silences some of the criticisms routinely levelled at Professor Raoult, which are in effect that he should have deliberately not treated a random selection of his patients to compare the effect of not treating them (which Raoult considers unethical). Dr Zev likewise refuses nobody; the patients going untreated were those going to different medical practices in the same town. Public records give the outcomes. Of 384 untreated, test-positive patients, 13 died (3.4 per cent) and 58 (15.1 per cent) were hospitalised. This is all of the test-positive patients elsewhere in town, high-risk or not.
So Dr Zev’s high-risk patients almost always survive, and few go into hospital. Less than 1 per cent high-risk deaths is distinctly better than the hideous overall mortality of 175 NHS hospitals in the RECOVERY trials, approaching 24 per cent of more than 3,132 patients, or the case fatality rate for the UK, around 14 per cent of all cases.
Dr Zev’s priority is saving lives, without hospitalisation, and he usually succeeds. He knows that there is a limited window (about a week from symptoms) for knocking out the virus before the ‘inflammatory’ phase of the illness sets in. Typically he sees patients within four days of symptoms and most are treated within five days, a unique aspect of his paper.
Early treatment, within days of symptoms, has been emphasised by all successful clinicians for months. Remarkable accounts are now emerging from Brazil, where doctors recognising this have also had to fight political battles, and to be allowed to save lives. In the Amazon estuary city of Belém do Pará, an overwhelmed hospital system actually happened in early May. Patients died in vehicles outside. An early treatment policy, based on the Marseille combination, with drive-through pharmacies issuing medicine packs, transformed the apocalypse in a week.
Fewer than 5 per cent of the patients thus served turned up later at hospital.
Zelenko’s success shows the way of out of lockdowns, saving lives, squashing the epidemic, cleaning up spikes and ‘second waves’. It isn’t hospitals, intensive care beds or a vaccine that doesn’t exist yet and may never do. ‘Test and trace’, when it’s working, will help, but the missing ingredient is early treatment by GPs, using repurposed drugs whose safety is very well-known and which cost next to nothing ($20 per patient). An international petition (to the UK Parliament and Boris Johnson among others) has been started.
The UK death toll now stands at 44,198. Our fatalities are 14 per cent of all cases. Deaths per million are the second worst in the world. Excess deaths are the worst in the G7 countries. The NHS policy of ‘there is no treatment’ has patently failed.
Dr Zev has shown that it does not have to be like this.