French doctor, Didier Raoult, faces disciplinary hearing, accused of several breaches of the medical code of ethics related to the promotion of hydroxychloroquine against Covid-19 as non-validated treatment




Didier Raoult (French pronunciation: ​[didje ʁa.ul(t)]; born 13 March 1952)[1] is a French physician and microbiologist specialising in infectious diseases. In 1984, Raoult created the Rickettsia Unit at Aix-Marseille University (AMU). He also teaches infectious diseases in the Faculty of Medicine of Aix-Marseille University. Since 2008, Raoult has been the director of the Unité de Recherche sur les Maladies Infectieuses et Tropicales Emergentes. He gained significant worldwide attention during the COVID-19 pandemic for promoting hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the disease, despite the lack of good evidence for its effectiveness and the NIH and WHO‘s opposition to its use for the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients.[2][3]

On 17 March 2020, Raoult announced in an online video that a trial involving 24 patients from southeast France supported the claim that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin were effective in treating for COVID-19.[42] On 20 March, he published a preliminary report of his study online in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents.[43]  The French Health Minister, Olivier Véran, was reported as announcing that “new tests will now go ahead in order to evaluate the results by Professor Raoult, in an attempt to independently replicate the trials and ensure the findings are scientifically robust enough, before any possible decision might be made to roll any treatment out to the wider public”.[44] Véran refused to endorse the study conducted by Raoult and the possible health ramifications, on the basis of a single study conducted on 24 people.[45]

The French media also reported that the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi had offered French authorities millions of doses of the drug for use against COVID-19.[44] On 3 April, the International Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, which publishes the journal, issued a statement that the report on the non-blind, non-randomized study “does not meet the Society’s expected standard, especially relating to the lack of better explanations of the inclusion criteria and the triage of patients to ensure patient safety.”[46]

Raoult was one of 11 prominent scientists named on 11 March to a committee to advise on scientific matters pertaining to the epidemic in France.[47] He did not attend any of the meetings and resigned from the committee on 24 March saying that he refused to participate.[48] He denounced the “absence of anything scientifically sound”, and criticised its members for “not having a clue”.[49][50] He defended chloroquine as a benchmark drug for lung diseases, saying that it had suddenly been declared dangerous after having been safely used for 80 years.[49] Following reports and a complaint filed in July by the French-speaking Society of Infectious Pathology (Spilf), the departmental council of the French Order of Physicians opened a formal case against Didier Raoult.[51]


BORDEAUX, Nov 5 — A prominent French infectious disease doctor today faced a disciplinary hearing for his controversial recommendations on Covid-19 that won him global fame at the height of the pandemic.

Didier Raoult championed the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment at a time when the method was also being touted without evidence by former US Donald Trump and his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro.

But while seen as a folk hero by some in the southern French city of Marseille, which prides itself on its independence from Parisian orthodoxy, he was also accused by peers of spreading false information about the benefits of the drug.

Studies have found that hydroxychloroquine does not work against the coronavirus.

Raoult, 69, was present as the hearing presided over by the order of doctors in the south-western Nouvelle-Aquitaine region got underway at a courthouse in the city of Bordeaux.

He gave no comment on arrival, acknowledging some thirty demonstrators who had come to support and applaud him.

“Raoult, our beacon in the night”, “Don’t touch our Raoult” were among the slogans banners testifying to the popularity of a doctor who prides himself on confronting establishment orthodoxy.

He stands accused of several breaches of the medical code of ethics related to the promotion of hydroxychloroquine against Covid-19 as non-validated treatment.

The disciplinary chamber, chaired by a magistrate, can decide on sanctions against the doctor ranging from a simple warning to a temporary suspension. It must deliver its ruling between 15 days and eight weeks after the hearing.


Buzz Feed

A Data Sleuth Challenged A Powerful COVID Scientist. Then He Came After Her.

Elisabeth Bik calls out bad science for a living. A feud with one of the world’s loudest hydroxychloroquine crusaders shows that it can carry a high price.

Stephanie M. Lee BuzzFeed News Reporter

Last updated on October 18, 2021, at 6:35 p.m. ET

Posted on October 18, 2021, at 1:06 p.m. ET

Days after a mysterious new illness was declared a pandemic in March of last year, a prominent scientist in France announced that he had already found a cure.

Based on a small clinical trial, microbiologist Didier Raoult claimed that hydroxychloroquine, a decades-old antimalarial drug, was part of a 100% effective treatment against COVID-19. Then–US president Donald Trump promptly proclaimed that the finding could be “one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine.”

But the study seemed off to Elisabeth Bik, a scientist turned science detective living in Silicon Valley. Bik has a sharp eye for spotting errors buried in arcane scientific papers, particularly when it comes to duplicated images. And much about Raoult’s paper looked fishy, as she later noted on her blog. Unfavorable data was left out, and the trial’s timeline was mathematically impossible. “Something does not seem quite right,” she wrote.

Before long, Bik would learn the price of raising such concerns. Raoult and a coauthor went on to call her a “witch hunter,” a “mercenary,” and a “crazy woman” on Twitter and in the press. Then, in April 2021, Raoult’s collaborator announced that they had filed a criminal complaint against Bik and a spokesperson for PubPeer, a website where she and others post scientific criticism, accusing them of blackmail, extortion, and harassment. He tweeted out a screenshot of the complaint, revealing her home address to the world.

These were the most direct threats Bik had ever received for identifying problems in scientific research — an activity she sees as integral to science. Alarmed, she tweeted a plea: “I could use some legal help.”

Bik’s efforts to clean up science are immense: Since 2014, she’s contributed to the retractions of at least 594 papers and 474 corrections. But Raoult is a daunting adversary. He’s authored thousands of papers and heads a leading infectious disease research institute in France. And during the pandemic, he has become one of the world’s biggest champions of hydroxychloroquine. His Twitter following has swelled to over 850,000, more than twice that of France’s health minister. His institute’s YouTube videos, many of which feature him, have been viewed 96 million times.

The legal threat against Bik came at a highly vulnerable time for her. Two years ago, she quit her biotech industry job to be a full-time scientific misconduct investigator, piecing together a living from consulting, speaking fees, and Patreon donations. Within the scientific community, where fact-checking almost universally happens on one’s own time and dime, Raoult’s move to press charges was a clear warning.

Read the article here:


New York Times

He Was a Science Star. Then He Promoted a Questionable Cure for Covid-19.

The man behind Trump’s favorite unproven treatment has made a great career assailing orthodoxy. His claim of a 100 percent cure rate shocked scientists around the world.

By Scott Sayare

  • Published May 12, 2020Updated May 21, 2020

When diagnosing the ills afflicting modern science, an entertainment that, along with the disparagement of his critics and fellow researchers, he counts among his great delights, the eminent French microbiologist Didier Raoult will lightly stroke his beard, lean back in his seat and, with a thin but unmistakable smile, declare the poor patient to be stricken with pride. Raoult, who has achieved international fame since his proposed treatment for Covid-19 was touted as a miracle cure by President Trump, believes that his colleagues fail to see that their ideas are the products of mere intellectual fashions — that they are hypnotized by methodology into believing that they understand what they do not and that they lack the discipline of mind that would permit them to comprehend their error. “Hubris,” Raoult told me recently, at his institute in Marseille, “is the most common thing in the world.” It is a particularly dangerous malady in doctors like him, whose opinions are freighted with the responsibility of life and death. “Someone who doesn’t know is less stupid than someone who wrongly thinks he does,” he said. “Because it is a terrible thing to be wrong.”

It is in this spirit that, over the objections of his peers, and no doubt because of them, too, he has promoted a combination of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug, and azithromycin, a common antibiotic, as a remedy for Covid-19. He has taken to declaring, “We know how to cure the disease.” Trump was not the only one eager to embrace this possibility. By the time I arrived in Marseille, some version of Raoult’s treatment regimen had been authorized for testing or use in France, Italy, China, India and numerous other countries. One in every five registered drug trials in the world was testing hydroxychloroquine.

On March 16, Raoult released the results of a small clinical trial that showed, he said, a 100 percent cure rate.

At the time, health authorities around the world were warning that a viable treatment could be months away. The Chinese reports, however, appeared to confirm Raoult’s longstanding hopes for chloroquine. A deadly virus for which no treatment existed could evidently be stopped by an inexpensive, widely studied, pre-existing molecule, and one that Raoult knew well. A more heedful scientist might have surveyed the Chinese data and begun preparations for tests of his own. Raoult did this, but he also posted a brief, jubilant video on YouTube, under the title “Coronavirus: Game Over!” Chloroquine had produced what he called “spectacular improvements” in the Chinese patients. “It’s excellent news — this is probably the easiest respiratory infection to treat of all,” Raoult said. “The only thing I’ll tell you is, be careful: Soon the pharmacies won’t have any chloroquine left!”

Raoult’s paper included results for 36 patients. Fourteen were treated with hydroxychloroquine sulfate; six were treated with a combination of hydroxychloroquine sulfate and azithromycin; and 16 served as controls. On Day 6 of the trial, 14 of the 16 control patients still tested positive for the virus. Patients receiving hydroxychloroquine fared markedly better, with only six of 14 testing positive on Day 6. Most encouraging, though, all six patients treated with a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin were found to be rid of the virus.

Several prominent French doctors cautioned that the results would have to be confirmed and warned of possible side effects. The French health minister deemed the trial promising but called for more testing. Raoult had already begun assembling data for a larger study, but he dismissed the need for anything particularly vast or lengthy. Like other critics of the R.C.T., he likes to point out that a number of self-evidently useful developments in the realm of human health have never been validated by such rigorous tests. This observation has come to be known as the parachute paradigm: We tend to accept the claim that parachutes reduce injury among people who leap from airplanes, but this effect has never been proved in a randomized study that compares an experimental parachute group to an unlucky parachuteless control. “It’s like Didier says,” Drancourt told me. “If you don’t have something that’s visible in 10 patients, or 30, it’s useless. It’s not of any consequence.” An effective treatment for a potentially lethal infectious disease will be visible to the naked eye.

On March 16, a Long Island attorney and blockchain enthusiast named Gregory Rigano appeared on Laura Ingraham’s nightly show on Fox News, “The Ingraham Angle.” Ingraham introduced the segment by asking: “What if there’s already a cheap and widely available medication, that’s on the market, to treat the virus? Well, according to a new study, there is such a drug. It’s called chloroquine.” Rigano, who at the time was falsely presenting himself as an adviser to Stanford Medical School, had recently self-published an acclamatory report on the potential of chloroquine, “An Effective Treatment for Coronavirus (Covid-19),” as a Google Doc formatted to resemble a scientific publication.

On air, Rigano announced that a researcher in the south of France, “one of the most eminent infectious-disease specialists in the whole world,” was about to publish the results of a major clinical study. “Within a matter of six days, the patients taking hydroxychloroquine tested negative for coronavirus, for Covid-19,” Rigano said. (He made no mention of azithromycin.) “We have a strong reason to believe that a preventative dose of hydroxychloroquine is going to prevent the virus from attaching to the body, and just get rid of it completely,” he added. “That’s a game changer,” Ingraham said.

Trump began hyping hydroxychloroquine on March 19, at a White House news conference with his coronavirus task force. “I think it’s going to be very exciting,” Trump said. “I think it could be a game changer and maybe not. And maybe not. But I think it could be, based on what I see, it could be a game changer. Very powerful.”

Raoult’s study had measured only viral load. It offered no data on clinical outcomes, and it was not clear if the patients’ actual symptoms had improved or indeed whether the patients lived or died. At the outset, 26 patients were assigned to receive hydroxychloroquine, six more than the 20 who appeared in the final results. The six additional patients had been “lost in follow-up,” the authors wrote, “because of early cessation of treatment.” The reasons given were concerning. One patient stopped taking the drug after developing nausea. Three patients had to be transferred out of the institute to intensive care. One patient died. (Another patient elected to leave the hospital before the end of the treatment cycle.) “So four of the 26 treated patients were actually not recovering at all,” noted Elisabeth Bik, a scientific consultant who wrote a widely circulated blog post on Raoult’s study. She paraphrased the sarcasm circulating on Twitter: “My results always look amazing if I leave out the patients who died.”

Beyond its apparent errors and omissions, the study’s design — its small size, its flawed control, the unrandomized assignment of patients to the treatment and control groups — was widely viewed to render its results meaningless. Fauci repeatedly called its results “anecdotal”; the biostatistician who analyzed the paper on behalf of the French government’s coronavirus advisory committee wrote that it was “impossible to interpret the effect described therein as being attributable to treatment with hydroxychloroquine.”

Scott Sayare is a writer in New York. He previously lived in Paris and was stranded there in March when borders began closing around the world.

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