Maverick French Covid doctor reprimanded over ‘breaches’ in clinical trials

A French doctor who shot to global notoriety during the Covid pandemic with an unproven treatment for the virus has been formally admonished by health authorities over "serious breaches" in several other clinical trials.

Maverick French Covid doctor reprimanded over 'breaches' in clinical trials
Didier Raoult at the IHU medical institute in Marseille. Photo by Christophe SIMON / AFP

Didier Raoult, a respected tropical disease specialist, earned fans but also widespread condemnation from peers by insisting that Covid could be treated with the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.

Despite an absence of peer-reviewed evidence, Raoult administered the drug to hundreds of people and helped spur its promotion by former US president Donald Trump and his populist Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro.

His outspoken defence of hydroxychloroquine despite several trials and studies discrediting its Covid effectiveness earned him an official admonishment from the French Medical Association last December.

The reprimand had little impact, however, because Raoult had already resigned as a practising physician at the hospital university of Marseille in southern France.

But the controversy also drew scrutiny of his other research by health regulators, who opened inquiries late last year of trials at the Mediterranean Infection Foundation of Marseille, which he still directs.

On Wednesday, the ANSM drug security agency said it had found “serious breaches” in clinical tests, most of which were begun several years before the Covid pandemic.

It was the first time France’s national health authorities have explicitly faulted Raoult over his practices.

“Ethical rules have not been systematically respected, which did not allow the proper protection of participants,” the ANSM said in a statement.

In some cases patients were not asked to sign waivers proving their consent, and in others the doctors did not obtain the required notice of opinion from an independent evaluation committee.

It ordered a halt to the faulty trials still underway and said it would oversee “corrective and preventive measures” to ensure proper conduct.

It also filed a legal complaint against Raoult’s foundation, saying it had illegally launched some trials and had submitted a fake document to justify one of them.

But it did not take any action over the administration of an experimental treatment for tuberculosis that provoked severe side-effects in a large number of patients, a scandal revealed by the Mediapart investigative website in October 2021.

The ANSM said Raoult’s foundation had not registered the treatments as a clinical trial, meaning it did not have grounds to intervene – but an inquiry is ongoing and legal complaints may still be made, it said.

Raoult denied doing any tuberculosis research and said at a press conference last week that he might sue Mediapart for describing the treatments as “uncontrolled tests.”

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French vocab and prices: Your guide to visiting the dentist in France

From finding a dentist to treatment costs, plus the crucial bits of French vocab, here's everything you need to know about visiting the dentist in France.

French vocab and prices: Your guide to visiting the dentist in France

The dentist – as unjustly dreaded in France as they are anywhere else in the world.

But, while few, if any, of us enjoy visiting our friendly, neighbourhood chirurgien-dentiste, we all know that it’s important to care for our teeth and gums, so here’s what you need to know.

How to make an appointment

A simple web search for a dentiste or chirurgien-dentiste will bring up the contact details of local professionals. Then it’s a case of ringing up to make an appointment. There is no need to be registered with a dentist, you can visit anyone who has a free appointment, although you may prefer to keep your appointments with the same person if you are  having ongoing treatment.

Alternatively, sites such as Doctolib may allow you to book a slot online.

If you’re worried about remembering your French verb conjugation while you have a mouth full of blood, Doctolib also lets you know which languages your dentist speaks.

READ ALSO How to use the French medical website Doctolib

How much it costs

The government-set going rate for a dental check-up is €23 for dentists working in the public health system – which most do. As a result, 70 percent of that fee, paid at the time of the consultation, will be reimbursed for anyone who holds a carte vitale.

Check-ups last as long as the dentist needs to examine your teeth. If no additional work is required, it’s just a few minutes in the chair.

If you require additional work, then how much you pay goes up – along with the time it takes. A basic filling, for example, costs €26.97, of which €18.88 is reimbursed. Descaling adds €28.92 to the initial bill, but is again partially reimbursed.

The upfront cost of root canal work on a molar, meanwhile, is €81.94, while extraction of a permanent tooth costs €33.44. 

The full price list is available on the Ameli website.

For any procedure that costs more than €70, your dentist will provide you with a written estimate, along with a number of options. 

Remember, these prices are for dentists operating in the state sector. Fees at private practices are higher.

What about crowns, implants or dentures?

Your dentist might offer you the option of a crown or implant instead of the basic treatments of fillings and extractions, but these are expensive and are usually not covered on the carte vitale, so here whether or not you have a mutuelle is important.

The top-up health cover known as a mutuelle – find more details here – will generally offer dental cover, but exactly what is covered depends on your policy.

If you require special treatment, make sure to consult the price list, as you will often have to pay up front before you can claim anything back. 

Dental hygienist/teeth-cleaning

If you like to visit the dentist regularly for a scale and polish you will need to check whether your dentist’s cabinet employs a hygiéniste dentaire (dental hygienist).

Most practices do but not all. If you’re going to a new practice it’s generally better to make an appointment first with the dentist for a check-up, and then ask for regular hygienist appointments.

Useful vocabulary

Dental surgery – un cabinet dentaire

Emergency dentist – un dentiste de service

I would like to make an appointment – je voudrais prendre un rendez-vous

I would like a check-up – je voudrais une visite de contrôle

It is an emergency – c’est une urgence

A tooth – une dent

Wisdom teeth – les dents de sagesse

A filling – une plombage or un pansement

une dévitalisation – root canal

I have broken a tooth – je me suis cassé une dent

I have a toothache – j’ai mal aux dents

My gums are bleeding – Mes gencives saignent

I have a cavity – J’ai une carie

My gums hurt – J’ai mal aux gencives

This one hurts – Celle-là me fait mal

These ones hurt – Celles-là me font mal

An abscess – Percer un abcès

Nerve – le nerf

An extraction – une extraction

Injection – une injection/une piqûre

Local anaesthetic – une anesthésie locale

Denture/s – les dentier/s or une prothèse dentaire/les prothèses dentaires

A crown – une couronne

A bridge – un bridge

ARRRRRRGH – AIIIIIIIIE (hopefully you won’t need this one)