A French doctor, a controversial, Pr Didier Raoult, has published a new study on a derivative of chloroquine, confirming, according to him, the “effectiveness” of this treatment against the novel coronavirus, but this is again disputed by many scientists.
This study, published online Friday night but not yet in a scientific journal, focuses on 80 patients, of whom 80% had a “favorable evolution”. It is the successor to a previous one which was about twenty sick and had already been the subject of criticism on the methodology used.
“We confirm the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine (a derivative of chloroquine, a malaria drug, ed) associated with azithromycin (an antibiotic, editor’s note) in the treatment of Covid-19,” write the Pr Raoult, infectious disease specialist, and his team, at the conclusion of the new study.
But many scientists believe that it is impossible to draw such a conclusion solely on the basis of this study, because of the manner in which it is developed.
Their main criticism: the study does not include group-control (or control group, that is to say, patients who is not given the treatment being studied) and therefore it is impossible to establish a comparison to determine if this is the treatment that is at the origin of the improvement.
“No, this is not huge, I’m afraid”, has responded on Twitter to the Pr François Balloux, University College London, in response to a tweet enthusiastic as “enormous,” the findings of the study.
It is a study without the group-control “that follows 80 patients with symptoms quite mild. The majority of patients recover from Covid-19, with or without treatment with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin”, a-t-he developed, in unison with many other scientists on social networks.
The patients “were actually no signs of severity at admission. But our strategy is to treat at this stage to avoid the evolution toward criteria of gravity”, explained to AFP a co-signatory of the study, Philippe Gautret, a doctor at the university hospital Institute (IHU) Méditerranée Infection, Marseille, centre renowned research, headed by professor Raoult in the second city of France.
The Pr Raoult, for its part, claimed on Twitter the lack of group-control, arguing that his team offers its protocol to “all of the patients with no contra-indication”.
“The doctor can and must think like a doctor and not as a methodologist”, he also appeared in a column published by the daily le Monde.
The study covers 80 patients, half of which are less than 52 and a half years, followed up for 6 to 10 days in march at the IHU Méditerranée Infection. All of them have received a combination therapy of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin.
According to the study, 65 patients (81%) have experienced “a favorable development” and walked out of the hospital after less than five days on average, a patient of 74 years of age, was still in intensive care at the end of the study, and another 86-year-old was dead.
The study also says that most of the patients experienced a “rapid decline”, in less than a week, of their viral load.
Then again, the argument has left skeptics a number of scientists.
Two chinese studies have recently shown that “10 days after the onset of symptoms, 90% of the people who have a moderate form (of the disease) have a viral load controlled”, explained to AFP the epidemiologist Dominique Costagliola, director of research at the national Institute of Health and medical Research (Inserm, France).
Similar findings in hydroxychloroquine “is not to argue for a major effect of hydroxychloroquine on viral load”, she estimated.
“It’s a safe bet that this new study will convince the convinced”, thought it was Heidi.news, media online switzerland, specialized in science, by delivering a critical analysis of the study of the Pr Raoult.
The French is at the centre of a global debate on the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to combat the sars coronavirus.
Some doctors and some leaders call to administer this drug, called “gift from heaven” by the american president Donald Trump.
But a large part of the scientific community and health organizations call to wait for scientific validation rigorous, in warning against the risks to the patients.
Called “Discovery”, a european trial is underway in several countries on four treatments, in which the hydroxycholoroquine.
In waiting for the results, France has authorized the administration of hydroxychloroquine to the hospital only and only in severe cases.
The French Health minister Olivier Véran is said to base its decision “on the recommendations of learned societies” that “were seven to say that the clinical and biological data we had were far too inadequate to take the risk of prescribing the treatment (otherwise) in these conditions”.