Yale Epidemiologist, New Study Tout Hydroxychloroquine as Controversy Continues to Rage

The controversy over the effects and safety of the use of hydroxychloroquine, often combined with azithromycin, to treat the novel coronavirus has been raging for months now. Some have touted hydroxychloroquine as a “cure” for COVID, while others have bashed the drug as unsafe and harmful.

On Thursday, July 23, Dr. Harvey Risch, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Epidemiology at Yale School of Medicine, wrote an op-ed in Newsweek holding up hydroxychloroquine as the “key” to defeating the coronavirus.

“When this inexpensive oral medication (hydroxychloroquine) is given very early in the course of illness, before the virus has had time to multiply beyond control, it has shown to be highly effective, especially when given in combination with the antibiotics azithromycin or doxycycline and the nutritional supplement zinc,” Dr. Risch wrote.

He goes on to explain that he authored an article in the American Journal of Epidemiology analyzing five studies which demonstrated “clear-cut and significant benefits to treated patients.”

After receiving substantial blowback for his opinion, the Yale School of Public Health released a statement defending Dr. Risch’s right to opine on the use of hydroxychloroquine.

“If persons disagree with Dr. Risch’s review of the literature, it would be advisable to disseminate the alternative scientific interpretations, perhaps through letters or other publications with alternative viewpoints… My role as Dean is not to suppress the work of the faculty, but rather, to support the academic freedom of our faculty, whether it is in the mainstream of thinking or is contrarian,” said Sten H. Vermund, M.D, Ph.D., Dean of the Yale School of Medicine

It looks like Dr. Risch will not be cancelled for his opinion, as often happens these days

Additionally, a new study published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases (IJID) found a substantial reduction in mortality in patients with COVID-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine.

“The use of hydroxychloroquine + azithromycin was associated with a 66% reduction in risk of death as compared to controls; the analysis also suggested a larger effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in patients with less severe COVID-19 disease,” the authors of the study wrote.

The results were similar to another study, known as the Henry Ford study, published on July 1, 2020, also in IJID. This study found that “treatment with hydroxychloroquine alone and in combination with azithromycin was associated with reduction in COVID-19 associated mortality.”

However, some scientists have since blasted that study calling it “unscientific.”

“As a result of the flaws in the analysis the conclusions reached in [the study] are invalid,” said Graham Atkinson who is an independent consultant in health care policy, according to CNN.

Of note, a study published in 2005 in the Virology Journal found that chloroquine, which hydroxychloroquine is derived from, was effective in treating SARS-CoV, a coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV2 (COVID-19)

The jury is still out on the effectiveness and safety of treating the novel coronavirus with hydroxychloroquine

However, Operation Warp Speed officials said earlier this week that they are excited about other new therapeutics that can be used to effectively treat COVID-19. The therapeutics are expected to become widely available this fall and include convalescent plasma treatment and the drug Remdesivir.

You can follow this author on Twitter @MettlerZachary

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