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A controversial French professor who touts the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment — without evidence, scientists say — will appear before a disciplinary panel charged with ethics breaches, an order of doctors said Thursday.
Marseille-based Didier Raoult stands accused by his peers of spreading false information about the benefits of the drug.
His promotion of hydroxychloroquine was taken up by US and Brazilian presidents Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, who trumpeted its unproven benefits in a way critics say put people’s lives at risk.
No clinical trials have yet found in favour of using hydroxychloroquine against Covid-19, and critics say that due to potential serious side effects, treating coronavirus patients with hydroxychloroquine is worse than no treatment at all.
In June, the British-led Recovery trial team said that hydroxychloroquine does nothing to reduce coronavirus mortality.
A group representing 500 specialists of France’s Infectious Diseases Society (SPILF) filed a complaint with the national Order of Doctors of the Bouche-du-Rhone department, which includes Marseille, in July.
They accused Raoult of breaking nine rules of the doctors’ code of ethics.
Other doctors and patients have also lodged complaints.
On Thursday, the Order confirmed it had given the go-ahead for a disciplinary hearing after reviewing the complaints against Raoult. A hearing will likely only take place next year.
Raoult’s lawyer Fabrice Di Vizio confirmed they had received notice of the decision, but insisted his client would be cleared.
If found guilty, Raoult could be fined, merely warned, or barred from practicing.
Raoult, who heads the infectious diseases department of La Timone hospital in Marseille, said in March that his study of 80 patients showed “favourable” outcomes in four out of five treated with hydroxychloroquine.
But his peers insist there is no scientific evidence to back up the claim.
French President Emmanuel Macron visited the colourful scientist with shoulder-length blond hair and a grey beard on April 9 at the height of the pandemic, when the French were observing strict stay-at-home rules.
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Notes from APS Radio News
Some months ago, the Henry Ford Health System released the results of a study that showed that when administered early enough and in doses not exceeding a particular amount, the use of hydroxychloroquine significantly reduced the number of deaths hospitalized because of the virus.