I hoped I would never have to write about that ridiculous quack Vovka Zelenko. But three days ago, he published his “clinical trial” about the COVID-19 curing power of hydroxychloroquine in a peer-reviewed journal. An Elsevier journal, issued by the International Society for Microbial Chemotherapy (ISAC), whose chief editor is a human sockpuppet of the chloroquine guru Didier Raoult. The paper appeared in a special collection edited by Raoult plus the society’s past president, they handled the “peer review”. While the society’s current president denounces me as some kind of enemy of science and declares to be proud to not have succumbed to pressure to retract Raoult’s own paper which in March 2020 unleashed the chloroquine disaster worldwide and catapulted Zelenko into Trump’s inner circle. While both coauthors of Zelenko’s paper are Germans, one of them is affiliated with the University Clinic of Düsseldorf where I did PhD.
So I have to write about this.
First, who is Vovka Zelenko? Like myself, Zelenko is a Jewish immigrant from Kiev (or Kyiv, capital of Ukraine), we are even of similar age. He grew up as Vladimir (or Vovka) and now calls himself Ze’ev in Hebrew because he wants to be like Jabotinsky or something, but with a long bushy beard. I became a criminal Nazi troll in Germany, while Zelenko became nothing less but the Messiah who saved not just all Jews of his New York village, but the entire humanity from the coronavirus. How?
The village doctor from the Jewish orthodox community of Kiryas Joel early on latched onto Raoult’s chloroquine bandwagon. Zelenko’s first public announcement appeared on 23 March 2020, right after Raoult’s seminal paper was published, specifically referencing the director of IHU Marseille:
“I combined the data available from China and South Korea with the recent study published from France (sites available on request). We know that hydroxychloroquine helps Zinc enter the cell. We know that Zinc slows viral replication within the cell. Regarding the use of azithromycin, I postulate it prevents secondary bacterial infections.“
You see, Vovka is no-one’s fool, this is why he adjusted the scam to make the mineral Zinc the magic COVID-19 fighting molecule, with hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and azithromycine as a kind of adjuvant. The advantage is that if you run out of the two prescription drugs, you can always buy zinc supplements in every supermarket. Raoult himself never included zinc in his own COVID-19 scam (only HCQ and the antibiotic azithromycin), so in principle their COVID-19 cures should be incompatible. And yet the two men became ardent lovers, maybe because they have a common goal of trolling the world during a pandemic while playing doctor.
Update: a reader shared a (presumably COVID-19) prescription by an IHU doctor dated 9 September 2020, where Zinc is included with HCQ and Azithromycin. Seems Raoult already adapted The Zelenko Protocol!
Zelenko is also a rabid fan of Donald Trump whom he probably worships more than Hashem. By bowing to his new God, Vovka achieved a bizarre status of a chloroquine prophet. His March announcement was addressed to Trump, and right on cue Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani started to advertise for Zelenko on social media. Trump himself referred to Zelenko when publicly announcing to be preventively taking HCQ (but later on, when Trump did catch COVID-19 eventually, no hydroxychloroquine was deployed to treat the president).
The connection to the Imperial Wizard in the White House and his clique of fascists was made via the chloroquine-middleman and cryptocurrency trader James Todaro (here their joint manifesto). Todaro (who claims to be a doctor, but dropped out from medical training and never had a proper medical licence) previously also fixed Trump with Raoult’s study, and later on joined other demented quacks like Stella “Demon Sperm” Imannuel in the notorious TV stunt called Doctors at Frontlines. But I digress.
In May 2020, Zelenko, who claimed to have treated his entire village with his COVID-19 medicine, departed from Kiryas Joel, accusing village elders of killing Jews by allowing magefah (the plague) in. He made a video, where:
“Zelenko said that he wanted to dispel rumors that his decision to leave had anything to do with a disagreement with his current employer, CareStier Health, where he is the medical director.”
Maybe Zelenko was not entirely honest. The day after Vovka went public with his chloroquine revelations, there appeared this open letter, dated 24 March 2020, by the Kiryas Joel office of emergency management:
“We the undersigned institutions strongly believe that the predictions presented by Dr. Zelenko have been proven false and are not supported by the overall medical establishment, specifically in his wild conclusions as to the spread of the virus in our community.”
Turned out the infections were prevented by the local lockdown measurements, and not by Vovka’s miracle cure of zinc and chloroquine.
Vanity Fair (who seem to have a much better investigative medical journalism than “serious” newspapers, they also originally exposed Paolo Macchiarini) brought in late May, on the occasion of Vovka’s exodus from Kiryas Joel, an amazing scoop on how Zelenko became Trump’s favourite. We learn that on 5 April 2020, just one week after the FDA issued under Trump’s pressure an Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) for hydroxychloroquine, the Trump-appointed FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn phoned Zelenko:
Hahn then helped to organise a clinical trial with Zelenko’s COVID-19 medicine, and even supplied hydroxychloroquine from the Strategic National Stockpile at FEMA:
Hahn continued assisting Zelenko, also Guiliani and Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, were involved. Vovka was personally introduced by Hahn to Patricia Flatley Brennan, director of the National Library of Medicine, which supervises the clinicaltrials.gov website. Vovka the village quack was advised how to register his clinical trial. Another character Zelenko was connected to, was Jerome Corsi, “a right-wing conspiracy theorist“. Big plans were made, and then shit happened.
The trial was then quickly registered on Clinicaltrials.gov. Presumably it never took place though (good for patients!), because Zelenko published something else instead: a study of his Kiryas Joel patients treated “between March 18, 2020 and May 14, 2020”. Which brings us to the new paper in Raoult’s journal.
And now Raoult and his ISAC journal published his paper:
Roland Derwand , Martin Scholz , Vladimir Zelenko COVID-19 outpatients – early risk-stratified treatment with zinc plus low dose hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin: a retrospective case series study International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents (2020) doi: 10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2020.106214
I am not going to discuss the “science” in this “study”, other much more competent people wasted enough time debunking Zelenko’s Kiryas Joel bullshit already. Like Florian Gouthière who in April 2020 debunked Zelenko’s bullshit study in Liberation:
“The rumor that more than 600 New Yorkers have been cured with hydroxychloroquine is false in more than one way. According to the doctor supposed to have carried out this treatment, the treatment in question was only given to 350 people who had mild and moderate symptoms. While no complications were noted in the small number of people treated for the first four days, hospitalizations were recorded the following week. The data allowing to objectify the real contribution of the treatment to the evolution of the state of health of the patients have not yet been made public.“
Here, I rather want to use this occasion to show you how screwed up science, academia and learned societies are, who seem to be fiddling while the world is burning. Academics rarely feel responsible for what their deeds cause in the real world outside, there is no such thing as fraud, quackery or lies if it was committed via peer reviewed literature. Everything is a scientific debate among respectable peers in this community, even deaths on a hundreds of thousands scale in a pandemic.
But then, how did this awful garbage get published in a peer reviewed society-run journal? Well, there is a story behind it.
First of all, the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents (which is published by the International Society for Microbial Chemotherapy (ISAC) and Elsevier), is Raoult’s subordinate at the IHU Marseille and ISAC board member, Jean-Marc Rolain. And Raoult himself was one of the two handling editors of that paper. The other editor was Po-Ren Hsueh, professor at the National Taiwan University and previous ISAC President and current board member of the society. Hsueh declared in April 2020 that HCQ and azithromycine have shown “excellent clinical efficacy on Chinese COVID-19 patients“. The collection “COVID-19 Therapeutic and Prevention“, in which Zelenko’s paper appeared, is full of studies endorsing HCQ and azithromycin.
Now you surely recall that the chloroquine shitshow originally started on 20 March 2020 with Raoult’s own paper in that same journal, Gautret et al 2020, which was debunked by Elisabeth Bik and which I discussed in this popular post here. That paper famously was peer reviewed in a matter of literally hours. As the world slid into a pandemic disaster, voices were raised about what the actual f**k was ISAC thinking, to allow that.
On 3 April, ISAC issued a statement, which they later deleted and eventually reinstalled:
“ISAC shares the concerns regarding the above article published recently in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents (IJAA). The ISAC Board believes the article does not meet the Society’s expected standard, especially relating to the lack of better explanations of the inclusion criteria and the triage of patients to ensure patient safety.”
Back then, I contacted the society’s president Andreas Voss, about whether Raoult’s paper will be retracted. Voss wrote to me on 5 April, assuring that Raoult’s paper received “thorough review” as per “standard“, speedy as it may be. He also added regarding the retraction question:
“ISAC is not the publisher. That is Elsevier and as according to them all rules and industry standards were followed a retraction is not what they consider“.
It does sound like ISAC asked Elsevier to retract the paper and evil Elsevier refused, right? Turns out, this time it was not Elsevier’s fault at all. The next day, Voss sounded like science has spoken on chloroquine (typos his):
“Do people on the blog know that chloroquine is an effective drug in a careful selection of COVID-19 and being part of many nationl and international guidelines? If I see some of the comments I have the feeling that some don’t know that.“
Voss then clarified that it all was his personal opinion and not that of ISAC, and added, highlights his:
“We have very strict indication for its use and it is ONLY in admitted patients, […] With little to no choice left and with some evidence that it might help, what will you do in your patient?
What you hear me say is that I am glad that people watch out that science stays what it has to be, but make sure that you not withholding one of the few options to a selected group of patients who would have profit from it. With people under pressure rate decisions are taken, such as completely taking away the choice of using chloroquine in the right situation and patient.“
Well, that was in early April 2020, but surely now, in October 2020, Voss will agree that enough clinical studies, including the large-scale double blinded randomised controlled clinical trials Solidarity and Recovery, and the WHO opinion have sufficiently proven that HCQ does not work? Do ISAC members still treat their patients with HCQ? Voss refused communication, so we can’t know.
Maybe Voss and his ISAC colleagues are still praying in the church of chloroquine. How else to explain Zelenko’s paper which Raoult and former society president Hsueh published there? So before the communication ended, I wrote to Voss again, and got some angry tirades back. Typos his:
“You know science gets fun one people only read and analyse in one direction like you do. At least have a look at what we as a society say and publish. If you believe in on-directional science over (all is okay as Ling as it supports your opinion) than I can’t help it.“
Voss also told me never to write to him, but later on added when asked again to comment on Zelenko’s paper, typos his:
“ISAC wrote nothing that would support teh paper you mentioned. You wanted the other paper to be retracted and we preferred a discussion and people actually what was wrong with it. How you can conclude different is unexplainable to me and with that go ahead, write what you want to hear instead of actually what ISAC expressed.No way I can stop you in. that except, finishing ths“
So, that hinted retraction request ISAC allegedly made in April? They never asked Elsevier to retract Raoult’s paper, in fact they are very happy about the scientific debate (meaning, the journal-impact-factor-boosting citations) it earned them. And this is also why ISAC published Zelenko’s paper now, it will bring citations and raise the impact factor further. And it is Schneider who is the enemy of science and humanity, while Dr Zelenko is a valuable scientific peer whose excellent research on COVID-19 just passed the thorough peer review at IJAA.
Nobody at ISAC apparently gives a toss about the pandemic, they have other preferences. Academic collegiality and publishing revenue are more important than human lives. Definitely don’t bother complaining to Elsevier.
Zelenko himself issued a press release about his new paper, on his own website “The Internet Protocol“. Titled:
“Groundbreaking Study Accepted for Publication by The International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents”
Vovka announced “that the paper can now be used in clinical practice” because it “can save the lives of millions of people suffering from COVID-19” and mentioned:
“Dr. Zelenko’s position and his treatment plan have been the subject of criticism. But many people supported the doctor’s position. For instance, an infectious disease doctor David Boulware and doctors from Harvard and Yale Medical Schools.”
I wonder if David Boulware will agree, because his own randomized controlled clinical trial showed that HCQ does NOT work at all, and he made it perfectly clear on every occasion. The Yale University distanced itself from the noxious HCQ proselytizing of their professor Harvey Risch. The other authority named, George Carr Fareed is NOT affiliated with Harvard (here merely got his medical degree there), in fact Fareed seems to be yet another village doctor who privately treats patients with the “Zelenko Protocol”.
The announcement also introduces the two coauthors of the “Zelenko Protocol”:
“Drs. Derwand and Scholz were the first to draw attention to “The Zelenko Protocol” in their published hypothesis paper about the importance of combining zinc with hydroxychloroquine as a method for treating COVID-19.“
Let’s meet the authors of that paper from September 2020, in Elsevier journal Medical Hypotheses (much frequented by quacks, charlatans and loonies).
First, there is Roland Derwand, Munich-based local Head of Medical affairs at Alexion Pharmaceuticals. His employer is apparently perfectly happy to be associated with the HCQW0RKS movement, the professional affiliation appeared on both preprint and the newly published “peer reviewed” paper. That despite Derwand’s declaration that his collaboration with Zelenko was of “private” nature, without involvement of Alexion Pharma:
“Dear Mrs Schneider, thank you very much for your tweet. My initiative and engagement in this kind of honorary COVID-19 research has been private. Let me know if you have any question and many thanks for supporting us. KR, Roland Derwand“
The corresponding author of the ISAC-approved paper in IJAA is Martin Scholz, who is presented in a press release (where all 3 authors are quoted regarding their HCQ study) as “an independent consultant and adjunct professor for experimental medicine at Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany“. Here a German version of that press release on Zelenko’s “Internet Protocol”, if you need it.
But an earlier press release of that university (now for some reason deleted) mentioned that Scholz is supposed to hold another adjunct professorship at the Goethe University in Frankfurt. It is not clear what happened to that affiliation, also in Düsseldorf Scholz’ last research grant ended in 2008. The Munich-based company Leukocare which Scholz has founded in 2001, lost him as executive board member in 2018. Bet they are sad now, what with Profesor Scholz saving the world from COVID-19, but without the Leukocare affiliation.
What incredible luck for the University Clinic Düsseldorf, where the humble yours truly did his PhD, not knowing that the future saviour of the world Professor Scholz was working on the same campus at the same time. Below you see radiant Professor Scholz with the Rector Michael Piper and the medical Dean Joachim Windolf of the Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf. Little did the two leaders know that just 9 years later, their adjunct professor will rescue the world from COVID-19 using the “Zelenko Protocol”. And what great honour, the university clinic is generously allowed to serve as Professor Scholz’ affiliation on his new paper with Zelenko and Derwand in Raoult’s journal!
Raoult has not yet tweeted about the new paper by Zelenko, Scholz and Derwand which he accepted in his own journal. Neither did ISAC issue a celebratory press release. Hopefully soon?
Dr Vovka Zelenko himself commented under this article:
“Dr Schneider has never reached out to me. We have never spoken. He attacks my faith in G-d and accuses me of worshiping Trump. He also uses a demeaning Russian nick name “vovka” to refer to me instead of my Hebrew name Zev or Vladimir. My paper has been peer reviewed and published. It has been reviewed by top scientists in the world. Most consider the results of the paper significant and encourage further research. My team has treated thousands of patients since March with excellent results, perhaps the best in the world.
I’m not sure what is bothering Dr. Schneider but he seems like a bitter little man who is looking for relevance and publicity at the expense of denigrating others.
My focus continues to be on trying save lives and not debate with small people.“
In case you wonder why Vovka’s tweets above don’t load:
If you are interested to support my work, you can leave here a small tip of $5. Or several of small tips, just increase the amount as you like (2x=€10; 5x=€25). I want to buy all the zinc I can get.