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Immanuel vindicated? France hasn’t approved hydroxychloroquine as Covid-19 treatment – and drug found to be harmful

“DR STELLA IMMANUEL VINDICATED AS FRANCE APPROVES DRUG FOR COVID 19 TREATMENT,” declares a message circulating on Facebook in South Africa in early August 2020.

The drug is hydroxychloroquine, which US president Donald Trump promoted as a Covid-19 treatment in March and April.

The message says the “vindication” of Immanuel, a controversial Cameroonian American physician, comes after she endured a “severe attack by tech giants (Facebook, Instagram , Twitter, YouTube) for revealing to the world covid 19 has a cure”.

In July, Immanuel came under fire after she posted a video in which she claimed she had successfully treated more than 350 Covid-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine. Facebook and Twitter took the video down for promoting misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Immanuel has previously claimed that alien DNA was being used in medical treatments, that some diseases were caused by witches and demons, and that same-sex marriage could lead to adults marrying children.

“France approves the use of HCQ for treatment of Covid 19,” the message says. “After trials proved successful. 800 hospital have commenced using it.” The message has been viewed by more than 600,000 Facebook users in South Africa and Nigeria.

Has France recently approved hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 treatment? We checked. 

‘Should not be prescribed’ – and causes damage to heart

Hydroxychloroquine is used to prevent and treat malaria, and has approval as a treatment for auto-immune diseases such as lupus and arthritis. 

On 23 March France’s High Council for Public Health (HCSP) advised that hydroxychloroquine could be used under strict medical supervision to treat Covid-19 patients with severe symptoms. The advice was based on a limited study that found the drug was associated with a reduction in the amount of virus in Covid-19 patients. 

But on 27 May the HCSP revised its advice and the French government revoked a decree that had allowed hospitals to use the drug to treat Covid-19. 

In a statement released by the French department of health, the HCSP said its “new opinion” was that “the current data available do not provide proof of a benefit of hydroxychloroquine”. (Note that this is a machine translation of the original French.)

The council also warned that hydroxychloroquine was associated with “cardiac toxicity” – damage to the heart caused by toxic drugs, such as cancer drugs.

“International and national recommendations, such as the opinions of experts consulted, are not in favour of the use of hydroxychloroquine, whatever the severity of the infection,” the HCSP said.

South Korean health authorities have also reportedly advised dropping hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 treatment after studies found the drug did not provide any benefit. 

‘Increased risk of mechanical ventilation or death’

The Recovery trial, based at the UK’s Oxford University, tests proposed treatments for Covid-19 and tries to identify the ones that work. Its full name is the Randomised Evaluation of Covid-19 Therapy.

On 15 July Recovery published the results of a randomised study analysing the treatment of 1,561 Covid-19 patients who were prescribed hydroxychloroquine. The study has not yet been peer reviewed.

The study found that hydroxychloroquine did not prevent the deaths of patients, and “was associated with an increased length of hospital stay” as well as an “increased risk of progressing to invasive mechanical ventilation or death”. 

As early as May, a New York observational study of 1,446 Covid-19 patients found that “hydroxychloroquine administration was not associated with either a greatly lowered or an increased risk of the composite end point of intubation or death”. In other words, the drug didn’t stop patients from dying.

A regularly updated advisory by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says hydroxychloroquine should not be used to treat Covid-19 patients. The FDA has also revoked an emergency authorisation that allowed some hospitalised patients to be treated with the drug. 

The FDA says hydroxychloroquine has not been shown to be effective in treating or preventing Covid-19 and can cause abnormal heart rhythms, blood and lymph system disorders, kidney injuries, liver problems and failure. 

On 4 July, the World Health Organization discontinued its studies on hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid-19. 

“These interim trial results show that hydroxychloroquine ... produces little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalised Covid-19 patients when compared to standard of care,” the WHO said in a statement

French authorities have not recently approved the drug as a Covid-19 treatment. – Naledi Mashishi


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