Hydroxychloroquine: Science or Scandal?

Dr. Munr Kazmir
5 min readJul 14, 2020
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, meets with patients Tuesday, April 14, 2020, who have recovered from the COVID-19 Coronavirus, in the Cabinet Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

The White House is pressuring the FDA to reverse course and grant a second emergency authorization for hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial medicine, to treat COVID-19.

President Trump has touted the anti-malarial drug as a “game-changer” and potential treatment for the coronavirus, and has said he was taking it himself to prevent infection.

After Trump publicly acknowledged his confidence in the medicine on April 6, the media was quick to criticize hydroxychloroquine, pointing out the possible dangers and side effects immediately overshadowing the potential of the 65-year-old anti-malarial drug.

At first, those fears seemed well-founded. A Lancet Study published on May 22, 2020, sparked global concerns over the use of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, despite the drug’s 65-year-old history as an antimalarial treatment.

The study led institutions such as the World Health Organization and National Institute of Health to halt their HCQ studies.

Soon after, France stopped using HCQ on COVID-19 patients, the United Kingdom cut clinical trials involving hydroxychloroquine, and other countries like Belgium and Italy joined suit.

On June 4, however, the top medical journal was forced to retract the study after serious questions were raised about its accuracy.

Australian infectious disease researchers published a May 27 story in The Guardian Australia on discrepancies between the study’s claims on COVID-19 death totals in Australia and data reported by Johns Hopkins University.

The next day, over 120 doctors and medical professionals sent an open letter to Lancet editor, Richard Horton. They outlined ten problems with the study and requested Horton make the underlying data and methods available for other experts to review.

“The authors have not adhered to standard practices in the machine learning and statistics community. They have not released their code or data,” the letter says. “There was no ethics review.”

“There was no mention of the countries or hospitals that contributed to the data source and no acknowledgments to their contributions. A request to the authors for information on the contributing centres was…