Photograph of hydroxychloroquine sulphate tables in a white coloured box in front of a red coloured board with coronavirus outbreak mentioned

I don’t know if Harvey Risch is right about hydroxychloroquine…

But I think he’s definitely right about the politicization of medicine. Harvey Risch, who’s a Professor of Epidemiology at Yale’s School of Public Health, published an opinion piece yesterday called, “The Key to Defeating COVID-19 Already Exists. We Need to Start Using It.” Here are some excerpts:

When [hydroxychloroqine] is given very early in the course of illness, before the virus has had time to multiply beyond control, it has shown to be highly effective, especially when given in combination with the antibiotics azithromycin or doxycycline and the nutritional supplement zinc. …

Physicians who have been using these medications in the face of widespread skepticism have been truly heroic. They have done what the science shows is best for their patients, often at great personal risk. I myself know of two doctors who have saved the lives of hundreds of patients with these medications, but are now fighting state medical boards to save their licenses and reputations. The cases against them are completely without scientific merit. …

Why has hydroxychloroquine been disregarded? 

First, as all know, the medication has become highly politicized. For many, it is viewed as a marker of political identity, on both sides of the political spectrum. Nobody needs me to remind them that this is not how medicine should proceed. We must judge this medication strictly on the science. When doctors graduate from medical school, they formally promise to make the health and life of the patient their first consideration, without biases of race, religion, nationality, social standing—or political affiliation. Lives must come first. …

In the future, I believe this misbegotten episode regarding hydroxychloroquine will be studied by sociologists of medicine as a classic example of how extra-scientific factors overrode clear-cut medical evidence. But for now, reality demands a clear, scientific eye on the evidence and where it points.

Something similar, I think, has happened with facemasks. In America, a simple, cheap, commonsensical precaution, that appears to have been used successfully to control the spread of the virus by a couple of hundred million people in East Asia, has become a “performative” act—a signal of tribal loyalty. And it’s not just hydroxychloroquine and masks, nowadays everything to do with COVID-19, and everything to do with everything else for that matter, gets filtered through the lens of tribal commitment. If this trend continues, it won’t end well!

Jon Guze / Director of Legal Studies

Jon Guze is the Director of Legal Studies at the John Locke Foundation. Before joining the John Locke Foundation, Jon practiced law in Durham, North Carolina for over twent...

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