Overview of UK Press Coverage of Major New Study about Hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 Treatment

While the results of the groundbreaking French study encompassing 1061 patients treated for COVID-19 are widely circulating on the Internet, through social media, how is the study being reported upon in the media? Let’s have a quick look at a selection of UK information outlets.

If you haven’t yet read about the new French research, please check it out here.

Why contrasting these two situations?

In the UK, case fatality rates are high and exceed 12% – 8,958 death for 73,758 cases at the time of writing this article (https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/).

In comparison, in the context of the French study, where all patients, who were testing positive to COVID-19, received hydroxychloroquine / azithromycin treatment, there were just 5 deaths out of the 1061 patients. The 5 deceased patients were aged between 74 and 95.

The case fatality rate among the 1061 patients treated at the IHU Marseille was 0.47%, i.e. 25 times lower than what is presently observed in the UK.

Dividing by 25 the risk of death thanks to a treatment costing less than 20 US$ should normally get some coverage, so let’s have a look at what can be found in a few leading UK media.

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The Guardian: No coverage. 

The latest piece on Professor Raoult / hydroxychloroquine is

Hydroxychloroquine: how an unproven drug became Trump’s coronavirus ‘miracle cure’ dated April 7

“With help from Fox News and Elon Musk, a misleading French study prompted a wave of misinformation that made its way to the president”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/06/hydroxychloroquine-trump-coronavirus-drug

The Independent: No coverage.

The latest piece on Professor Raoult / hydroxychloroquine is

Hydroxychloroquine: Is Trump’s controversial drug really a game-changer in fight against coronavirus?

“Studies have not concluded the anti-malarial drug can beat coronavirus, but Donald Trump continues to promote it”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/hydroxychloroquine-coronavirus-drug-update-malaria-treatment-cure-trump-a9452676.html

The Daily Telegraph: Coverage on April 9

Controversial French virologist claims chloroquine breakthrough for coronavirus as Macron visits

“Didier Raoult says the treatment removed all traces of the virus in 10 days, but previous research has been questioned”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/04/09/controversial-french-virologist-claims-chloroquine-breakthrough/

There is no coverage on the study summary and data that was later released.

The Daily Mail: No Coverage.

Yet the paper has a story on April 8 mentioning Professor Raoult. Note that the French research over 1061 patients did not report any significant side-effects. Note also that the details of the hydroxychloroquine treatment used in Sweden have not been revealed, and it’s most likely NOT the posology adopted at IHU Marseille that was administered.

Story Title: Swedish hospitals abandon trial of promising malaria drug chloroquine for coronavirus patients after it caused them blinding headaches, vision loss and agonising cramps

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“Doctors in Vastra Gotaland pulled plug on medication after adverse side effects. Swedish patients reported suffering cramps, peripheral vision loss and migraine. For one in 100 people, can cause arrhythmia, which can lead to fatal heart attack.”

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8199477/Swedish-hospitals-stop-prescribing-chloroquine-coronavirus-patients-adverse-effects.html

The Daily Mirror: No coverage.

The Daily Express: No coverage.

The Times: No coverage.

Yet, there is a commentary titled “Don’t let fake news infect the war on Covid-19”

“The worldwide hunt for a coronavirus wonder drug is being hijacked by populists who will only cause us more harm … The med in question is hydroxychloroquine, usually prescribed as Plaquenil …  in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become a symbol of something else entirely. It has gone from a medicine to a weapon in the culture wars, and that is not a good thing.”

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/dont-let-fake-news-infect-the-war-on-covid-19-8md5ndwxq

BBC News: No coverage.

Most recent mention of hydroxychloroquine can be found in the April 9 article “Hydroxychloroquine: The Indians worried over export of unproven ‘corona drug’ to US”

“There is no proof that hydroxychloroquine (commonly known as HCQ) is effective in treating Covid-19” claims the article.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-52222367

Financial Times: No coverage.

Latest article is dated April 3 and is titled “Marseille’s maverick chloroquine doctor becomes pandemic rock star.” 

The article reports about the increasing popularity of the Professor Didier Raoult, but not on the substance of his work. Instead, the article quotes Andre Kalil, an infectious disease specialist, who said that “it was important to wait for more complete studies since chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin can “cause serious side effects to the liver and to the heart”. “People are taking unsafe and unproven drugs, and the risk of dying from these drugs may be higher than dying from Covid-19,” he said.

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https://www.ft.com/content/679024aa-d70a-49df-9c77-e4d9967c0f2d

The position of the UK government is that there is no proven treatment regarding COVID-19 and that it will wait for the results of ongoing research, conducted by Oxford University and others, before providing treatment to the population.

So remember this number: 25. The case fatality rate is 25 times higher in the UK than for those patients treated in Marseille.

Or in other terms, the case fatality rate is about 95% lower at the IHU Marseille than presently in the UK.

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