Special to WorldTribune, May 6, 2021
Analysis by R. Clinton Ohlers
A new study provides further evidence that the drug hydroxychloroquine saves lives and could have been doing so on a large scale in the United States throughout the pandemic.
Estimates suggest at least 100,000 could have been saved.
The study headed by Dr. Stephen Smith, a graduate of the Yale University School of Medicine and a former research scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases under Dr. Anthony Fauci, found that when properly adjusted for a patient’s weight, the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azythromycin together improved patient survival rates by more than 100 percent.
Smith was reluctant to give a specific number when asked how many might have been saved had the drug not been banned in hospitals last year, in an interview with Fox New’s Laura Ingraham, but he called the number “staggering.”
When pressed further, he agreed that 100,000 was a reasonable number of lives that might have been saved.
Ironically, Smith is unable to prescribe the drug at his own hospital, Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, New Jersey, where the study was conducted. That hospital banned use of the drug for COVID-19 back in December, after earlier restricting it for clinical studies only in March of 2020. Smith does however prescribe it in his clinic, the Smith Center for Infectious Diseases and Public Health.
The finding is particularly significant since patients in the study were severely ill, already requiring intubation. Most were also over age 60 and had high rates of hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.
However, what they had in their favor was that many arrived at the hospital and received hydroxychloroquine within 10 days of their initial symptoms, placing them within the ideal window for the drug to be effective.
Original dosage recommendations for hydroxychloroquine, Smith says, “were very low.” His study adjusted dosage more appropriately for weight.
The only significant differences between the 201 patients who died and the 54 who lived was who received hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin proportional to their weight. Those who did survived at just shy of 3x the rate of those who didn’t.
The study also found hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin outpaced survival rates for convalescent plasma. Those who received convalescent plasma survived at just under twice the rate as those who did not.
Just over a year ago when hydroxychloroquine was first suggested as a treatment for COVID-19, critics echoed concerns that the drug, previously deemed highly safe, might increase heart arrhythmias. Smith and his co-researchers found that increasing the paired drugs in proportion with a patient’s weight did not increase any negative side affect on heart rhythm.
This additional finding, was not unexpected, as it matched earlier studies performed last year. In addition to being a very safe drug, hydroxychloroquine, which accumulates in a person’s body, is also administered safely at much higher cumulative rates to Lupus and Rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Smith described the banning of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 by hospitals such as his as extraordinary. Normally a drug would be banned if unsafe, but a safe drug would not be banned for a single application only. Normal medical practice is to allow doctors latitude in prescribe drugs in such manners.
“If I decided I thought hydroxychloroquine worked just to treat migraines, I could use it for that,” but “not for COVID-19,” Smith said in the interview. “That was a unique ban in American medicine.”
Smith and his cohorts are not new to the hydroxychloroquine controversy. Smith spoke out pointedly in defense of the drug in March of 2020 when New York area hospitals, including St. Barnabas, restricted prescription of the drug only for clinical trials.
“I have never heard of a hospital doing something like this,” Smith said in an interview with WND at the time. “It goes against all my understanding of medical ethics in research.”
“It’s totally unethical. You are not allowed to steer people into a clinical study,” Smith added. “That is strong-arming people.”
“It’s never happened before,” he said of the hospital policy in March, calling it “a bad sign for medicine going forward.”