Editor's Note (6/4/20): Three of the authors of the Lancet study referenced below retracted it on June 4 over concerns about the accuracy of the data. On June 3, University of Minnesota researchers reported no evidence that hydroxychloroquine prevents healthy people exposed to COVID-19 from catching the virus after conducting a randomized, double-blind clinical trial.
It would have been nice if the drug Fox News had promoted to President Donald Trump’s attention as a miracle cure for COVID-19 had actually worked. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
“A study of 96,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients on six continents found that those who received an antimalarial drug promoted by President Trump as a ‘game changer’ in the fight against the virus had a significantly higher risk of death compared with those who did not,” The Washington Post reported Friday. “People treated with hydroxychloroquine, or the closely related drug chloroquine, were also more likely to develop a type of irregular heart rhythm, or arrhythmia, that can lead to sudden cardiac death, it concluded.”
Medical experts described the results, published in The Lancet, to the Post as a “nail in the coffin” and the “death of [hope]” for the drug as a coronavirus treatment, and even suggested that it may not be ethical to provide it in clinical trials.
Fox News is the source of the president's belief that hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for the novel coronavirus:
The network’s stable of pro-Trump hosts and contributors promoted the drug literally hundreds of times, running with the flawed conclusions of grifters and charlatans. One of those hosts went to the White House to pitch the drug to him in person. And the president responded by publicly promoting the drug and even saying that he was taking it personally, as his public health experts stressed that evidence supporting its use as a treatment was sparse.
But Trump didn’t just talk up the purported effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine. As has been the case time and again during his administration, he changed federal policy on the basis of what he had seen on his television. Administration officials were forced to divert crucial time and resources from other potential efforts to fight the coronavirus toward the drug because Fox had gotten him obsessed with it. The network’s hydroxychloroquine boosters, meanwhile, took credit for those shifts. They also continued to tout the drug even as evidence mounted that it was ineffectual while denouncing virtually all other possible steps to suppress the virus.
We had to hope that it would work.
We had to hope that this time, there might be a happy ending -- that the drug Fox had promoted to Trump’s attention based on weak and anecdotal evidence really could succeed as a treatment for a virus that has now killed nearly 100,000 Americans.
But that doesn’t appear to be the reality.
The drug Fox promoted, according to the massive new study in The Lancet, actually makes things worse. Instead of listening to public health experts and waiting for scientists to do the hard, painstaking work of finding out if the drug was effective, the network seems to have sent the president -- and through him, the federal government -- down a rabbit hole.
Video by John Kerr