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HEALTH

French professor faces being struck off over his claims of coronavirus ‘cure’

The controversial French professor who vigorously defended the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to help beat coronavirus has been targeted by an ethics complaint that could see him face sanctions or barred from practising, a medical association said on Thursday.

French professor faces being struck off over his claims of coronavirus 'cure'
Professor Didier Raoult faces an ethics complaint over his claims on hydroyychloroquine. Photo: AFP

The Marseille-based Didier Raoult is accused in the complaint by medical peers of spreading false information about the benefits of hydroxychloroquine.

US and Brazilian presidents Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro seized upon Raoult's promotion of hydroxychloroquine and have trumpeted its benefits since the pandemic erupted.

But the method and conclusions of Raoult's studies were challenged from the start by critics and other scientists who said they had not been peer reviewed and were observational, not controlled.

A group representing 500 specialists of France's Infectious Diseases Society (SPILF) filed a complaint with the national Order of Doctors against Raoult in July, accusing him of breaking nine rules of the doctors' code of ethics, French newspaper Le Figaro said on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for the association told AFP that the complaint had been filed but said it would not make any further comment while the procedure was in progress.

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 for four in five of those treated with hydroxychloroquine.

But the six-page complaint, seen by Le Figaro, slammed the promotion of the drug “without any real scientific evidence on the subject, and against the health authorities' recommendations”.

“We can ask ourselves whether his unequivocal points of view… harmed public health recommendations,” the complaint added.

Raoult risks sanctions ranging from a warning to a ban on practising.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited the colourful scientist with shoulder-length blond hair and a grey beard on April 9th at the height of the pandemic, when the French were observing strict stay-at-home rules.

Contacted by AFP, La Timone's infectious diseases department declined to comment.

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POLITICS

‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief. 

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