Sunday on “Meet the Press,” Adm. Brett Giroir dumped cold water on claims that hydroxychloroquine was the answer to the Coronavirus crisis, telling the country that the drug has not been successfully tested and saying, “Right now, hydroxychloroquine, I can’t recommend that.”
Giroir, the Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services and is the principal science advisor to the HHS secretary, is an unlikely Deep State mole. Adm. Giroir, who holds his rank in the US Public Health Service, is a medical doctor and a scientist who headed Texas A&M’s Health Science Center before joining the government. (As an aside, way back in 2010 I debunked a conspiracy theory involving the Public Health Service that claimed the Affordable Care Act established a secret police force.) President Trump appointed Giroir to his assistant secretary position in February 2018 and to head Coronavirus diagnostic testing efforts in March.
Giroir cut through the politics surrounding hydroxychloroquine, saying that it “looked very promising at first,” but added, “At this point in time, there’s been five randomized-controlled, placebo-controlled trials that do not show any benefit to hydroxychloroquine, so at this point in time, we don’t recommend that as a treatment.”
Giroir said that hydroxychloroquine “needs to be prescribed by a physician” but doubted that many doctors would do so for Coronavirus.
“There may be circumstances — I don’t know what they are — where a physician may prescribe it for an individual, but I think most physicians and prescribers are evidence-based, and they’re not influenced by whatever is on Twitter or anything else,” he said.
For those interested in the science of how we can know that hydroxychloroquine is ineffective, Jason Pogue, a doctor of pharmacy at the University of Michigan, offers a detailed thread on Twitter.
“We need to move on from” hydroxychloroquine “and talk about what is effective,” Giroir said.
Effective measures for slowing the spread of Coronavirus include social distancing, avoiding crowds and indoor gatherings, and wearing a mask, Giroir said.
There are other promising treatments for Coronavirus. Remdesivir has been shown to shorten hospital stays and convalescent plasma therapy, which uses the blood plasma of COVID-19 survivors to treat current patients is encouraging but still under review. FiveThirtyEight’s “Podcast 19” recently discussed these and other prospective treatments in detail. Additionally, there have been many optimistic developments on potential vaccines for COVID-19.
The fact that hydroxychloroquine has become a political hot potato is unfortunate in that it both distracts from serious discussion of treatments and breeds distrust among the public for doctors who are trying desperately to save lives. The bottom line is that advice on medical matters should come from medical experts and not YouTube videos or politicians. Even anecdotal evidence from doctors (who may or may not be honest about their experience in treating Coronavirus) is less convincing than the sum total of controlled scientific studies.
Instead, the hydroxychloroquine partisans often resemble defenders of communism who continually deny the failures of their ideology. Venezuela an the Soviet Union weren’t true communism and the studies should have included azithromycin or zinc or not included something else. No study will ever meet the standards of the true believers unless it affirms their confirmation bias.
As Adm. Giroir says, “We need to move on.”
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