COVID-19 ‘scandal’ spotlights media contempt of Trump
The media has accused President Donald Trump of putting lives at risk by touting hydroxychloroquine as treatment for COVID-19. But as it turns out, the media’s reflexive oppositional stance to all things Trump could have produced dire consequences for those who contracted coronavirus.
This week The Lancet, a renowned British medical journal, retracted a study it had published in May indicating hydroxychloroquine was highly lethal in many circumstances.
Science magazine on Friday dubbed the episode the “pandemic’s first major research scandal.” The Guardian, a London newspaper, explained why:
“In the middle of a raging pandemic, a study in the world’s leading global health journal that seemed to prove President Trump wrong to laud the drug hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19 was always going to have a massive impact. It did. When the paper flagged a higher risk of death on the drug, trials were stopped all over the world, including one by the World Health Organization.
“Now it’s in danger of unravelling.
“The data on more than 96,000 patients from 671 hospitals worldwide is under the microscope. Errors have already been confirmed. A Guardian investigation has revealed major issues with the small US company Surgisphere that owned the database.”
The authors of the initial report in The Lancet said they were forced to pull back because Surgisphere would not release that data to third-party investigators for confirmation of their results.
Apparently the decision to back away from Surgisphere was fueled in part by the sleuthing of other researchers who picked apart the company’s work. The Guardian lauded its own detective work on Friday. Among the issues it uncovered:
- The Guardian’s search of publicly available material indicated several of Surgisphere’s employees had little or no scientific background. The company’s supposed science editor seems to be “a science fiction author and fantasy artist whose professional profile suggests writing is her fulltime job.” Another staffer whose title is marketing executive is actually an adult model and events hostess.
- The company’s LinkedIn page has fewer than 100 followers and recently listed just six employees. It was later reduced to three employees.
- Surgisphere claims to be super tech-savvy, operating one of the largest and fastest hospital databases in the world. Yet the firm has little presence on the web. Its Twitter account has fewer than 170 followers, with no posts between October 2017 and March 2020.
- Until recently the company’s “get in touch” link on its redirected to a WordPress template for a cryptocurrency website, raising questions about how hospitals could contact the company to join its database.
Because of the original Lancet article, researchers at the World Health Organization and in several other nations halted trials of hydroxychloroquine. Now, with the retraction, it’s unknown where those trials stand.
“The problem is, we are left with all the damage that has been done,” a COVID-19 researcher in Bangkok told Science magazine in an article published Friday, “The whole world thinks now that these drugs are poisonous.”
The world thinks that because of the Trump Derangement Syndrome-fed paranoia that portrayed hydroxychloroquine as some radical and dangerous antidote — even though the drug has been around for nearly 70 years in the U.S. as a treatment for malaria.
Some media, though, still hammered the president, highlighting findings of a new University of Minnesota study of hydroxychloroquine.
As USA Today put it, “The drug President Trump said he was taking to prevent COVID-19 failed another test Wednesday, when a study showed it did not protect against infections.” Rather, the research “showed hydroxychloroquine wasn’t better than a placebo at preventing the development of COVID-19.”
That may be true, but the drug is not killing people as USA Today and the rest of the Trump-hating media led everyone to believe after The Lancet article. What we don’t know is how many people could have been helped, and suffered serious consequences as a result, because physicians weren’t willing to risk hydroxychloroquine because of that Lancet report.
Maybe we could get by this if we leave politics out of science.
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