End of February 2020. The first Frenchman who had not recently traveled abroad died in the Oise. For doctors worried about what’s going on in China, this is the red alert. Despite posters posted by Agnès Buzyn at airports, the coronavirus has entered French territory. No one knew at the time how it would be broadcast. Almost no one, apart from those responsible for it, still knows that France has let its stock of masks disappear. Doctors are aware that the health care system has only been on the shoulders of healthcare workers for a long time. Some people measure the magnitude of what is coming.
Didier Raoult’s announcement on the spectacular efficacy of a synthetic antimalarial, chloroquine, first aroused great relief, immediately followed by many of us, healthcare professionals, with growing doubt, before the errors accumulated during his speaking. Lack of toxicity, incentive to “Throw yourself” on a drug with delicate handling. When we discover the Chinese article on which Raoult bases his crisis communication, we are amazed. You don’t need to have special knowledge in statistical methodology to understand that something is wrong. Not encrypted data. It is not known what dose was given, what type of patient, or how many were treated. The article was not peer-reviewed, that is to say peer reviewed, decrypted, it is a pure announcement effect. So, certainly, in this chaotic period, we say that before a revelation of such importance, the Chinese wanted to act as quickly as possible, to warn the whole world. And Didier Raoult, who advises, as he explains with delicious modesty, the Chinese, the best virologists in the world, was probably entitled to the scoop of this revelation.
Chloroquine disappears as if by magic
On YouTube, he posts a strange interview on February 28, “Why should the Chinese be wrong?” in which, on several occasions, he resumes his interlocutor with obvious annoyance: “No, this is not the question I should ask myself! You have to ask me … “ An informal group of doctors and twittos forwards the link. We rub our eyes. What Raoult passes for an interview is in fact only an audience given to one of his students or coms officers. We sarcastically advise him to edit his subject the next time before broadcasting it. An hour later, the video disappears and returns in a more professional form that can give the impression of a real interview. And quickly, in the press which begins to turn its microphones towards the Marseilles professor, this one modifies its matter, without never questioning itself.
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Chloroquine, yesterday spectacular and miraculous, disappears as if by magic, replaced overnight by hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), a different drug, less widespread. If its chemical structure is close to that of the antimalarial drug, hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is mainly used in rheumatic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, or immune diseases like lupus. It therefore does not hang out in large quantities in medicine cabinets. And its cardiac toxicity, although very real, is slightly less than that of chloroquine. Raoult highlights the HCQ as an immense discovery, continues as usual to ridicule his detractors: “The doctors who criticize me are neither in my field nor in my weight category.” He castigates the immobility of embittered little health officers, just good enough to follow the dictates of the authorities, who, entangled in their calamitous management of the crisis, dare not intervene. And his posture of refractory Gauls, big mouth facing the system, attracts the sympathy of those to whom he gives hope, of those who understand that the State does not tell them everything, and of those who seek a hero who can stick to their prejudices: the man alone against the establishment, the white knight facing Big Pharma, the hippocratic colossus assaulted by hordes of soulless ants.
Justified raising of shields
Nobody, among those who give him a microphone, asks him the question that we, generalists, cardiologists, pharmacologists, emergency physicians, resuscitators, we all ask: by what sleight of hand did Raoult change in 48 hours from miracle drug, in full view of everyone? And how is it that nobody sees it? He, who makes so much of his image on social networks, has he suddenly become aware of the risk of being confronted with chloroquine with a justified outcry and deaths by self-medication?
Read also : Didier Raoult, far from “Doctor Maboul”
While the World Health Organization rings the alarm bell, in the context of general distrust of scientific speech, distrust of governments, awareness (late and sometimes disproportionate) of the influence of Big Pharma , and while the fear of beginnings gives way to a real panic among some with each new case identified, Raoult amassed “likes”, fans, sites to his glory. And begins for us, bewildered, the great inventory of blatant untruths asserted as revealed truths, which the professor will never have the honesty to rectify.
Didier Raoult’s minimal intellectual integrity would be to admit having changed horses on the way. To admit that the concern of the detractors that he despises was well founded, concerning chloroquine to which many have access, without knowing the dangers (Nivaquine is often used in IMV, voluntary drug intoxication, to commit suicide). And because Raoult never retracts, he reaped all the benefits of his media coverage: each supporter of the Marseille mage goes there for his testimony. Their brother, sister, uncle, the stepfather of their hairdresser, took the teacher’s medicine (which one?) For eight years in Africa and never had a problem, this is proof that the detractors are just jealous, or, worse, mandated by “lobbies”.
And tirelessly, we repeat basic truths:
– Yes, chloroquine has been around for years.
– Yes, it is widely used.
– But in another indication, the prevention of malaria.
– And at a dose five to ten times lower.
– And in high doses it causes cardiac arrest.
– And it has never been effective against a virus.
– Neither this nor another.
– And the same for hydroxychloroquine.
– It’s even quite the opposite.
In fact, what the proponents of the scientific method patiently say is very counterintuitive, almost inaudible. Because they say to worried and disoriented people, who put their faith and hope in ONE MAN, that in his assertions … nothing is right.
Christian Lehmann doctor and writer