French professor remains defiant on hydroxychloroquine despite new study

French professor remains defiant on hydroxychloroquine despite new study
Didier Raoult. Photo: AFP
Controversial French medical professor Didier Raoult said he stood by his belief that hydroxychloroquine can help patients recover from the coronavirus, rejecting a study that indicated there was no benefit from taking the drugs.

“How can one messy study done with 'big data' change what we see?”, microbiologist Raoult asked in a video posted on the website of his infectious diseases hospital in Marseille.

For long recognised scientist, Raoult earned worldwide fame during the coronavirus crisis for his controversial beliefs, even visited by President Emmanuel Macron in person as the head of state sounded out experts to find a cure to Covid-19.

Raoult has consistently argued that the anti-viral drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have a tangible benefit, a stance that has been loudly backed by President Donald Trump who has said he has even been taking hydroxychloroquine as a precaution.

But a new study looking at the records of 96,000 patients across hundreds of hospitals, published in The Lancet, found that administering the drugs actually increased the patients' risk of dying.

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This was just the latest in a series of studies that have cast doubt over the efficiency of the drugs in curing the coronavirus

But the professor, touted by supporters as a lone truth-teller fighting against an ivory tower of elitist scientist, said the new findings would not change his stance.

“Here we have had 4,000 people go through our hospital, you don't think I'm going to change because there are people who do 'big data', which is a kind of completely delusional fantasy,” he said.

“Nothing will change what I have seen with my own eyes.”

The French medical professor has gained worldwide fame since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: AFP

His comments came as the World Health Organization said it was suspending trial of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment over safety concerns.

Hydroxychloroquine is normally used to treat arthritis while chloroquine is an anti-malarial. Both drugs can produce potentially serious side effects, particularly heart arrhythmia. 

EXPLAINED: What is chloroquine and why do some French scientists back it as a coronavirus cure?

Raoult, a distinctive figure with his shoulder-length shaggy grey hair, ended the video by repeating another controversial claim that “this is the end of the epidemic”.

Macron met Raoult at his hospital in April as the president canvassed opinion about the next policy steps to make in the fight against the coronavirus.

The Elysee insisted at the time that the visit did not represent any kind of “recognition” of the professor's methods.

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