Hydroxychloroquine: Conspiracy vs. evidence-based science

By now, we’ve all seen the viral video from Breitbart with doctors claiming they have cured Covid. People are tagging me in these posts, asking if I’ve seen it.

Yes, I’ve seen it.

I’m going to preface this by saying that I work for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. My job is to analyze data. I am also a contributor for Drugwatch and Medshadow Foundation, both of whom are experts in drug safety. And I’m a founding member of the American Society of Pharmacovigilance STRIPE initiative. I’ve also had Covid. While none of those things makes me the end-all-be-all expert on it, I can speak intelligently on the matter given my background and training.

One of the more outspoken of those in the video is a Houston primary care physician and minister. She spouts all kinds of conspiracy theories and passing them off as fact. This particular physician has a long history of conspiracy theories. She believes in alien DNA and demon sperm. So, there’s that.

Now let’s get to the hydroxychloroquine. I’ve written about this before and you can click here to read that.

The claim that the FDA approved hydroxychloroquine for Covid is false. The claim that it cures Covid or that a prophylactic dose will prevent Covid is also false.

There is a lot of misinformation going around on social media so let me explain how evidence-based science works.

There are several levels of evidence.

  • Experimental data. The word experimental is key here. Could coronavirus be killed in a test tube? Sure. At high enough doses, any virus can be killed. But it can kill your loved ones too. Just because something sounds good, doesn’t make it a viable option.
  • Anecdotal data. The key word is anecdotal. An example of anecdotal evidence is “welp, some guy in a grocery store said it cured his neighbor”. You don’t know the rest of the story, what other factors went into it, and quite honestly, trusting some random dude just because it sounds hopeful is dangerous . Another example of anecdotal evidence is when doctors do a press conference and give cool sound bytes but doesn’t give any actual information. I’ll also add that there was no comparison group. Anecdotal evidence isn’t evidence.
  • Cohort study data. So here, you’re comparing two groups. People who took this treatment and people who did not. Cohort studies are great to form a theory but makes no sense in practice.
  • Randomized control trial. NOW we’re at the first level of using actual evidence. This is where you would take a person who is positive for Covid and then either that person gets the drug treatment or they get a sugar pill. The pros of a randomized control trial is that you’re comparing identical groups. The cons of this, on this particular issue, is that hydroxychloroquine has more risk than benefit.

What you’re seeing on social media is not evidence of benefit. It’s sound bytes and nothing but anecdotal data.

Has hydroxychloroquine treated Covid patients successfully? I’m hearing anecdotally that it has. It also comes with enormous risk and has not actually been approved by any authority for Covid. Like fluoroquinolone antibiotics, certain medications should only be used for the most severe cases, in a hospital setting and when all other options have been exhausted.

Hydroxychloroquine is one of them.

There can’t be informed consent about any treatment unless a patient has all the information. Credible information.

Please be safe.

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