Things get even more surreal and idiotic with humanity’s creative attempts to cure COVID-19. India is now rolling out a Ayurvedic clinical trial with cow urine and manure, China continues playing with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), while we in the progressive and enlightened West go for stem cells, phony vaccine promises from shady companies (Moderna), drugs which do not really work but are convincingly expensive (Remdesivir), and of course the miracle drug chloroquine and its derivative, hydroxychloroquine (HCQ).
And yet, we are possibly witnessing now the last act of the chloroquine circus, since the malaria drug was proven not just ineffective against coronavirus infections, but also dangerous, especially in combination with the antibiotic azythromycine. A personal setback for the Chloroquine Guru Didier Raoult: France’s government completely banned HCQ prescriptions for COVID-19 patients on 27 May 2020. Future historians will figure out how many people worldwide suffered or died because of the quack cure from Marseilles which whole nations blindly followed.
At the same time, the charismatic director of the IHU Méditerranée Infection research hospital in Marseilles, who once pronounced Fin de Partie (end of the game) for the coronavirus because of his chloroquine cure, is now facing a fin de partie for himself instead.
Raoult might be facing the same fate as his US counterpart, Vovka “Zev” Zelenko who was once best friends with Donald Trump’s clique, and was now kicked out of his Orthodox Jewish village community in New York state for presenting himself as a kind of God-appointed (literally!) chloroquine Messiah and for faking the local coronavirus infection rates. Zelenko is now even under federal investigation for fraud, which could very much happen to Raoult.
As it turned out, the IHU director and medical doctor Raoult has always been treating COVID-19 (or alleged COVID-19) patients in Marseilles with chloroquine drugs illegally, and he announced to continue regardless of any orders or bans from the French government and national authorities.
Raoult’s first chloroquine study Gautret et al IJAA 2020 was published on 20 March 2020, as preprint and “peer reviewed” paper in an Elsevier journal run by his subordinate IHU coauthor. The clinical trial had no real control arm, because Raoult does not believe in randomised controlled clinical trials (RCT), or medical ethics in the first place (more about that here). Instead, COVID-19 patients in neighbourhood hospitals served as “controls”, because everyone at Raoult’s IHU hospital was treated with chloroquine (i.e., if they showed mild symptoms only or no symptoms at all, the really sick ones were simply never admitted to IHU).
A week later Raoult’s team published results from a follow-up “clinical trial”, this time with 80 patients and no control arm at all, not even a pretend one. The paper later appeared as Gautret et al TMID 2020 in another Elsevier journal, where same Philippe Gautret of IHU is senior editor. In interviews, the long-haired and bearded Guru of the Cult of Chloroquine declared that the concept of RCTs and control groups goes against the Hippocratic oath, and that he doesn’t need any ethics approvals or informed consent because the malaria drug chloroquine is well-known. The French authorities were unconvinced. In fact, as Liberation reported, they even forbade Raoult to run any clinical studies with chloroquine on COVID-19 patients without a control arm. The negative verdict was delivered on 1 April 2020:
“such a study, “open without control group” , “will not answer the question of the possible efficacy of the combination with the azithromycin, especially since the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine alone has not been demonstrated in the study justifying this research, due to the many biases it involves ”.
Raoult wiped his bottom with it and continued treating thousands of COVID-19 patients at IHU with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycine combination. He does this even now as I write this text, because he thinks nobody can touch him in France.
But then again, there was that mysterious letter. On 20 May 2020, the French newspaper Entreprendre published an alleged Raoult email to Robert Lafont, the CEO of this publishing house. The online article was swiftly deleted, but here is a backup. This was the letter, translated:
“Since you have been one of the rare journalists to have exhibited exemplary behaviour during this period, I would like to take this opportunity to reserve for you the first news: my upcoming departure for China (by the end of the summer). I was indeed recruited as Professor by the Peking University (PUHSC), the most renowned medical school in the country, which happens to be very advanced in the field of virology. It became very complicated to undertake research projects in the health sector in France, the sector being plagued by partisan quarrels, sprawling bureaucracy and political correctness. “
Newspapers were quick to denounce the letter as fake news and a prank, because Raoult’s PR goblin, Yanis Roussel, announced “Attention fake: Didier Raoult does not go to China”. He for sure does not, the job offer from Peking was definitely fake news. Lafort himself forwarded to journalists the original email sent by “firstname.lastname@example.org“. Now, a professional journalist and publisher like Lafort, with almost 40 years of experience, would surely have phoned or otherwise contacted Raoult or at least his PR imp Roussel, to confirm the dynamite email from a private account one never heard of. We are supposed to believe that Lafort did none of that, fell for such a simple prank and run with the story. That however would be a journalistic equivalent of you sending all your money to a Nigerian prince or Gaddafi’s niece because you also received a strange email.
Anyway, Raoult is certainly not tenable as IHU director. He is 68, and in principle he doesn’t need to be sacked, just forced to retire. Especially now that Raoult started to commit the worst possible crime an academic can commit.
Obviously it is not patient abuse, but neither is it his cruel and chauvinistic bullying (Raoult’s master discipline, especially making female students cry), not is it sexual harassment or assault (Raoult allowed that to happen at IHU for years, and when the vile perpetrator was sacked, Raoult brought him back into a new job with IHU). Nor is it research misconduct, Raoult was blacklisted for that before, with more data manipulations found in his papers by Elisabeth Bik.
The crime, which academia never forgives, is that of accusing your peers of research fraud, especially publicly, on Twitter even. Something the Marseilles Guru does willy-nilly these days. Maybe he knows that he already lost his power and soon also his job?
It started with Raoult’s attack on Elisabeth Bik, and then on his colleagues in Paris:
Which brings us to a certain recent Lancet paper which might become the final nail in the coffin of chloroquine and likely also the silver bullet against Raoult’s dictatorial rule in Marseilles.
Update 4.06.2020: the following text has been overtaken by reality. Turned out, the paper Mehra et al Lancet 2020 was fake, it was retracted today. But still do read the updates at the end!
A retrospective study analysed a huge cohort of COVID-19 patients, collated by the surgeon analytics company Surgisphere, from clinical studies reported by its members. The paper Mehra et al Lancet 2020 appeared on 22 May and reported the analysis of almost 15k patients treated with HCQ, in a group of 96k COVID-19 patients worldwide.
The study concluded (FYI, macrolide is the group of antibiotics azithromycine belongs to):
“We were unable to confirm a benefit of hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, when used alone or with a macrolide, on in-hospital outcomes for COVID-19. Each of these drug regimens was associated with decreased in-hospital survival and an increased frequency of ventricular arrhythmias when used for treatment of COVID-19.”
As the result and with direct reference to this paper, the World Health Organisation (WHO) immediately suspended the HCQ arm of its huge COVID-19 clinical trial Solidarity.
French High Council for Public Health reacted to the Lancet study and ruled that chloroquine drugs must not be used on COVID-19 patients outside of clinical trials, while the government followed with the ban on prescription for COVID-19 patients altogether. Raoult’s comment in this regard was:
“Here we have had 4,000 people go through our hospital, you don’t think I’m going to change because there are people who do ‘big data’, which is a kind of completely delusional fantasy”
Of course, the choleric IHU director then went to Twitter and accused the Lancet authors of fraud, in no uncertain words. First in French, then in error-prone English:
“About the paper published in The Lancet: data coming from five different continents cannot be so homogeneous. There is either data manipulation (not mentionned in Material and Methodes), or incorporation of faked data.”
For a narcissistic psychopath like Raoult, there is no such thing as cognitive dissonance. Whatever problems the Lancet paper might be having (the concerns are growing), Raoult’s own “clinical trials” are much, much worse. So bad, one doesn’t know where to start criticising them. The fraud he accuses others of is merely a bloated projection of his own propensity for research misconduct. It is also helpful to the ego that there are loyal friends like the former Minister of Health and now IHU board member, Philippe Douste-Blazy, who go on television to accuse all chloroquine dissenters of fraud.
Another politician, Christian Estrosi, denounced a “lynching” of Raoult by the media. The idea presumably being, since Raoult was born in colonial Senegal, that everyone not adoring this African man is basically a racist Klansman.
IHU members voice their support as well. A Twitter account with the name of Eric Chabriere, one of IHU’s authors of the chloroquine studies, is a troll account from which the Lancet authors were accused of fraud even before Raoult moved to do so. Chabriere himself then wrote emails to critics, claiming that Twitter account was fake and not his. Yet why did @ChabriereEric block several of these critics, and then switched the account to private mode, all past tweets hidden now? At least another IHU stooge, Philippe Parola, is not hiding:
Of course, every study supporting chloroquine, regardless of how abysmal in quality, is celebrated by Raoult and his ilk. Only that there won’t be much left to celebrate soon. Take his past endorsement for the Davido et al medRxiv 2020 preprint from Paris where dying COVID-19 patients were reportedly saved by the magic drug chloroquine. Raoult tweeted:
“Very good work from the team of Christian Perronne, at the Raymond-Poincaré hospital in Garches.”
Let us ignore for the moment the fact that the study’s lead author Christian Perronne is a quack whom Raoult himself has previously strongly denounced. A quack who designs unhinged therapies for autism. Let’s ignore its peer critics also.
But why is Raoult’s now silent as to what happened to that same Perronne preprint he so lauded just days before this notice appeared on it:
“The authors have withdrawn this manuscript and do not wish it to be cited. Because of controversy about hydroxychloroquine and the retrospective nature of their study, they intend to revise the manuscript after peer review”.
It is all a bad farce which stopped being funny long ago. The sooner the French dispose of Raoult, the better for the COVID-19 effort worldwide. Many lives will be saved for sure. But so far, the French government and the national authorities are afraid of an open confrontation with the Sun of Marseilles.
The paper Mehra et al Lancet 2020 has received a correction due to misrepresentation of one Australian hospital, while Surgisphere issued on 29.05.2020 a clarification statement addressing the concerns.
In between, an open letter to The Lancet was published regarding that paper, protesting “There was no ethics review” and demanding open access to the study’s research data. The campaign gathered at the time of media reporting over 120 signatures from clinicians across the world. One of the signatories is Raoult’s right-hand man Philippe Parola, who doesn’t get the irony for sure.
Lancet issued on 3.06.2020 an Expression of Concern for the Mehra et al 2020 paper and announced “an independent audit of the provenance and validity of the data”, the journal NEJM did the same for a related Surgisphere paper Mehra et al Cardiovascular Disease, Drug Therapy, and Mortality in Covid-19 NEJM 2020. The NEJM Expression of Concern appeared one day earlier, on 2.06.2020. Surgisphere is now credibly accused of being nothing but a fraud, Raoult would be right this time. Read more in this Science article.
But right after, on 5.06.2020, NEJM published the study Boulware et al A Randomized Trial of Hydroxychloroquine as Postexposure Prophylaxis for Covid-19 NEJM 2020 , where 821 people with high-risk coronavirus exposure were recruited to study possible role of HCQ in COVID-19 prevention. There was no statistical difference to placebo, except of HCQ-induced side effects.
Raoult himself switched to unashamed trolling.
In this TV interview he said the following (transcript and translation by my Twitter followers):
“First, there is this guy much better than me – and that annoys me- in Paris, at Gustave Roussy, his name is Guido Kroemer, his wife [Laurence Zitvogel] is marvellous, you should interview them, they are geniuses, he is a genius, he is the best immunologist in the world, we are very much in contact, she chairs my scientific council, she is a genius…“
Guido Kroemer prominently featured on my site, together with Laurence Zitvogel even in this stage play. Their joint PubPeer record of manipulated data currently stands at 57 papers (it grows every time someone bothers to have another look). The sudden expression of admiration from Raoult is bizarre, but kind of fits. Research cheaters seem to cover for each other, and the Paris Photoshop couple Kroemer and Zitvogel are very loyal in this regard.
The Mehra et al Lancet 2020 paper is now retracted. Read my coverage here.
But on 5 June, the investigators of the randomised controlled clinical trial in UK (RECOVERY) with 11,000 patients issued this statement:
“Last night, the Committee recommended the chief investigators review the unblinded data on the hydroxychloroquine arm of the trial. ‘We have concluded that there is no beneficial effect of hydroxychloroquine in patients hospitalised with COVID-19. We have therefore decided to stop enrolling participants to the hydroxychloroquine arm of the RECOVERY trial with immediate effect.“
WHO statement from 17 June 2020:
“On 17 June 2020, WHO announced that the hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) arm of the Solidarity Trial to find an effective COVID-19 treatment was being stopped.
The trial’s Executive Group and principal investigators made the decision based on evidence from the Solidarity trial, UK’s Recovery trial and a Cochrane review of other evidence on hydroxychloroquine.
Data from Solidarity (including the French Discovery trial data) and the recently announced results from the UK’s Recovery trial both showed that hydroxychloroquine does not result in the reduction of mortality of hospitalised COVID-19 patients, when compared with standard of care.
Investigators will not randomize further patients to hydroxychloroquine in the Solidarity trial. Patients who have already started hydroxychloroquine but who have not yet finished their course in the trial may complete their course or stop at the discretion of the supervising physician.
This decision applies only to the conduct of the Solidarity trial and does not apply to the use or evaluation of hydroxychloroquine in pre or post-exposure prophylaxis in patients exposed to COVID-19.”
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So… all those Youtube videos were wrong? 😉
community in New Jersey
That’s Kiryas Joel, New York.
Well, close. Will correct.
Two remarks still:
1. Please pay more attention when translating Raoult’s tweets. In most of the cases in our paper, you did not only translate but also extrapolate and wrote things that he did not write (although I have to confess that he did claim them elsewhere)
2. In my view, you have forgotten (or maybe you just do not know it) what is much more of a concern (at least for me leaving in France): he has a very strong support from the low and middle-class by attacking the Elites (government, scientists, pharma, WHO, medias…). He feels and behaves as he is untouchable as any legal actions against him might cause riots. He can even run for being the next President of France and if the elections were today, he would probably win. Luckily, the elections are in 2022 and Raoult might disappear with the pandemic.
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I agree that the political situation in France needs to be considered to understand why Raoult still has support. Actually I tried to analyse that on May 12th in a comment to the invited post by C. Lehmann. As for Raoult potentially running for president, I think it is science-fiction. Still he can be used, again taken into account the political situation in France. A few days back, the government announced billions of euros of public money will be given in support to the car industry. The government also made it clear that money will be given with no counterpart expected, i.e. the companies will be allowed to fire people and keep the money. Also, the government felt they had to start negociations with nurses, doctors and other people working for public hospitals to support better the public health system after it has been repeatedly damaged for decades. It comes after the COVID-19 fiasco and the protests by those people for better working conditions during months before the pandemic started. Well it seems clear that the yellow-vests movement and even larger protests can be revived when hundreds of thousands people will loose their job and nurses and doctors will be disappointed. Now take Raoult who is popular among the yellow-vests. Why not using him in the cabinet to calm down protesters? In his cabinets President Macron has had people from different backgrounds. The most notable example being perhaps the Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition who resigned after he “accumulated disappointments”. It is expected that the cabinet will change at the beginning of summer, so why not having popular Raoult in it? Would he be willing to participate? Hard to say.
Very good analysis of the situation in France. If you are not French, I shall congratulate you. If you are French, I shall also congratulate you not being a Raoult follower.
I can only hope that your predictions will turn right. Just one thought: Raoult will never accept to be the puppet of someone. Only he can pull the strings. To illustrate this, Raoult was part of the French Scientific/Medical Board and resigned using his usual rhetoric comment “they are a bunch of fools, who do not understand anything”. He also recently compared politics to holograms.
Pr. Raoult has just released the “results” from his “study”.
I will not detail why it proves nothing, as others have already done it. Let’s forget one moment who he is and how the study was performed and focus on the results. In his study, 3.737 patients, obviously with mild form of Covid (as per his protocol) were “enrolled” and 3 054 were treated by HCQ-AZ. The mean age of these patients was 45 year old.
Results: mortality rate of 0.9%. Guess what is the mortality rate in the general population with this age range after Covid infection? 0.1-0.3% (https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)31180-6/fulltext & https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S1473-3099%2820%2930243-7)!
If we apply Raoult reasoning and compare what cannot be compared, we can conclude HCQ-AZ increases the mortality rate by 3 to 9 times.
I largely agree with you, French Doc.
For the moment, anyway, Didier Raoult has not shown his data (which is spicy when you think that his disciple Philippe Parola signs a letter (to the editor of the Lancet) to ask the Lancet to do what his own team is unable (or unwilling) to do for more than two months. And for only one hospital and one city and on a population more than 10 times smaller than that of the Lancet study …).
That the Lancet study is mediocre, I think it’s quite clear. But it is undeniably better made than all of the Marseille studies.
But we must not “shoot the ambulance” as we say in France: the 0.9% concerns the entire population tested positive and integrated into the “test”.
Admittedly the summary is written like shit (which is already significant).
Didier Raoult also explained (elsewhere) that the IFR (which becomes a CFR in the particular case since the population tested is very very large) for the population treated with HCQ + AZO is 0.5%
This is not famous since it seems (but these are my assumptions) to have taken a maximum population from the people who came to be tested in his institute.
He may not have taken genuinely asymptomatic people (“we diagnosed 6,836 patients, including 3,737 included in our cohort” but there’s also : https://www.mediterranee-infection.com/covid-19/ where the numbers are not the same and with covid patients : 4888), but no doubt he also excluded people with the most serious heart problems and the people who are most in bad shape upon arrival (and by simply not taking into account the part of the population who could not come to the institute to be tested and included in the cohort because they were already too sick, hence a likely over-representation of the lightest cases).
So the 0.5% is actually not very engaging (given the information available : for me the IFR is probably between 0,5 and 0,6%, maybe a little less, maybe a little more).
This also implies that people who have not benefited from “Raoult” treatment have an IFR (almost equivalent to CFR in view of the population) much higher than 1%. But there it will be necessary to see their profile: age, sex and especially comorbidities.
But since 82% of the population (3054/3737) is actually treated according to the “Raoult” protocol, this seriously distorts the appreciation of the few known data.
My position is that, as long as the data are not known, we cannot give any credit to Didier Raoult on these “studies: indeed he has all the data (unlike the authors of the Lancet study) and he don’t give them to the scientists …
An example with this previous publication. Rather young people on average (43 years of median age), rather women (more than 53%) and rather very few comorbidities. In short, unlikely to find a population representative of the main victims of covid-19 : https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1477893920302179?via%3Dihub
all article and comments are very good about numbers, Pr Didier Raoult’s personality critism and political approach.
What about saving life?
Who are you L. Schneider? A journalist who ask for money, and what else?
Who are you “French doctor”(!!!)?
What did you do during epidemic? Did you contribute to fight? Were you in an hospital with hundreds of patients as the “guru” Raoult?
Your literature style comparing Pr Didier Raoult’s work with cow urine treatment in India (What a news, where did you find this?!!!) make me vomit because of bad smell of partiality and denigration campaign.
About thousand -years -traditional Chinese medecine, what do you know exactly?
All this article ( and comments) is a beautiful bullshit…
“forbetterscience”!! I am laughing! .
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RAOULT montre 1% de morts sur une population jeune (médiane à 42 ans), le charles de gaule a 0% (population très jeune) le diamond princes 1,8 % (population vieille)… L’idée initiale est chinoise … ils ont pas l’air de la valider plus que cela …
As of now, it is not possible to say that Pr. Raoult has saved lives. We can only say that he has treated patients with what he thinks is the best approach. However, if the findings that have been published (not only by Lancet but in other journals) are true, HCQ+AZ treatment might have killed patients. “Saving lives” is not only treating patients, but also highlighting the danger and the limit of a treatment and being able to switch to best one. Even assuming that Pr. Raoult is right, how many patients would he have saved by performing a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, prospective study? Overall using all scenarii, I personally believe that the balance of lives saved from Pr. Raoult is negative.
French doc, a few background points before addressing your point on the Raoult methodology. First in Raoult’s first published “contreversual” paper, the results clearly show a significant reduction of the virus load within a short period of time (
Mortality Covid-19 as May 30, 19:00GMT
Country Deaths Recov. Closed Mort. Rate
USA 104 977 521 336 626 313 16,76%
Brazil 28 015 193 181 221 196 12,67%
Russia 4 555 167 469 172 024 2,65%
Spain 27 125 196 958 224 083 12,10%
Italy 33 340 155 633 188 973 17,64%
France 28 714 67 803 96 517 29,75%
Gernany 8 598 164 900 173 498 4,96%
India 5 185 86 880 92 065 5,63%
Turkey 4 515 126 984 131 499 3,43%
China 4 634 78 302 82 936 5,59%
Belgium 9 453 15 769 25 222 37,48%
Portugal 1 396 19 186 20 582 6,78%
Switzerl. 1 919 28 400 30 319 6,33%
Cabo Verde 4 167 171 2,34%
Africa 3 973 58 924 62 897 6,32%
The Covid-19 is indeed changing the world including how we perform science.
I find your discussion interesting and accurate, but I am disappointed in that you lump Remdesivir as a drug “that really doesn’t do anything”. The land mark study published in the NEJM described the results. Shorter hospitalization, patients got better faster and less people died with Remdesivir. The first two were statistically significant. The decreased death percent with Remdesivir was not quite enough to be considered statistically significant…. but it may still be true.
I speculate that Remdesivir would work even better, perhaps a lot better if started right away. I expect and hope that such a trial, giving Remdesivir versus placebo in very early Covid19 will be starting before long. (overdue, in my opinion). And I expect that such a trial would show more significant utility of Remdesivir.
“The decreased death percent with Remdesivir was not quite enough to be considered statistically significant….”
There you have it. Remdesivir is sure not the miracle drug it is painted to be, its effect is marginal. Good enough to try on the very ill probably, but not more. From Wikipedia:
Didn’t work there either, but now, as if by magic or God’s intervention it works a bit against a totally different virus, the coronavirus. While Gilead desperately needs a new market. Can’t have a bigger market than covid-19, eh? Still orphan drug status, imagine the cash.
Let’s not be too pessimistic. The Kansas City Heart Rhythm Institute may have found a way to beat Covid-19, cheaper than Remdesivir and safer than HCQ, this is the power of intercessory multi-denominational prayer:
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I understand it hurts to be ridiculed but it’s time for you to apologize Leonid.
Lancet’s study was a shame, “the nail in the coffin for Raoult” you said?
Save what’s left of your integrity, delete this article and make a public statement/apology on Twitter instead of dodging the subject like the coward you are.
Ridiculed? You are the first and only one. Coward? Who is commenting here anonymously, “Ludu”? You even quotedme wrong, must be chloroquine SAE.
What a ridiculous and shameful comment. At some point I thought it was going to be concluded with “on your knees…”. Sent from France? Speaking of which, I’d like to mention the work of French media journalists who analyzed what happened on the four main 24-hour news channels in France during last March, especially after the first papers of Raoult et al. were published. For instance on March 23rd on BFM TV, which is probably the most watched news channel in France, “chloroquine” was said about 275 times and “Raoult” about 75 times. At some point “Raoult” was said up to 15 times/hour (once every 4 minutes on average) and “chloroquine” up to 35 times/hour. On BFM TV, there will be tonight the 3rd interview of Raoult. The last one was on June 3rd before the Lancet’s paper was retracted. So, quite difficult to escape the bragging of Raoult even if other viewpoints are presented and even if one wants to be informed on other topics. (Source : https://larevuedesmedias.ina.fr/etude-coronavirus-covid19-traitement-mediatique-raoult-chloroquine)
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HI, I wonder if you have any updates on this as it has been more than a year now since this was written.
There appears to be a lot more data out there on early intervention.
Do you plan to do a follow up on current data coming out?