Here’s why the nation’s leading coronavirus expert testified that Henry Ford Hospital’s study on the controversial drug hydroxychloroquine is inaccurate.
DETROIT, MI — Michigan’s study on hydroxychloroquine, the controversial medication pushed by President Donald Trump as a treatment for COVID-19, was flawed.
That’s the medical opinion of Dr. Anthony Fauci, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the most trusted expert on the coronavirus in the United States.
Fauci said in testimony to Congress the study conducted by the Henry Ford Health System fell far short of several standards.
Fauci was asked his thoughts on the study during his testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Coronavirus in late July.
First, medical studies normally consist of randomized, placebo-controlled experimentation, and often are “double-blind,” meaning the doctors administering the study don’t know at the time what patients are on placebo and what ones are on the medication being studied. Further, patients in a study must not be on any other medication that can produce similar results to those being tested for.
“The Henry Ford Hospital study that was published was a non-controlled, retrospective cohort study that was confounded by a number of issues including the fact that many people who received hydroxychloroquine were also receiving corticosteroids, which we know from another study gives a clear benefit in reducing deaths with advanced disease,” Fauci testified to Congress. “So that study is a flawed study.”
Hydroxychloroquine has been a dubious coronavirus treatment pushed without scientific evidence by Trump, who Forbes reports has a financial connection to the drug. The president even took the drug despite no public record of him having contracted the virus, which he discussed in his May visit to a Ford plant in Ypsilanti.
Henry Ford’s study was published in early July in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Infectious Diseases and the hospital has defended the study citing the peer review process. Fauci did not find that argument compelling.
“You can peer-review something that’s a bad study,” Fauci told Congress.
As the Journal of the Royal Medical Society explains, the peer review process is a little abstract and largely flawed in itself. What constitutes “peers” and “review” are ill-defined and debatable, and the actual effect of the process is more based on faith in the process itself than any factual grounding. Further, the Journal explains, peer review is not an objective assessment of the underlying study.
That said, Fauci admitted if a study that did meet normal medical standards showed promise in early, middle, or late stages that hydroxychloroquine produced positive results, he would advocate for its use. Such a study just doesn’t exist. In fact, multiple studies meeting those criteria show it being ineffective at combating the coronavirus, Fauci testified.
“I don’t have any horse in the game one way or the other,” he said. “I just look at the data.”
In an open letter issued, Henry Ford’s doctors argue that the traditional testing of drugs in the midst of a pandemic was too cumbersome for the hospital to undertake, Patch reported.
“[T]his type of study takes a long time to design, execute and analyze,” the doctors said. “Therefore, a whole scientific field exists in which scientists examine how a drug is working in the real world to get as best an answer as they can as soon as possible. These types of studies can be done much more rapidly with data that is already available, usually from medical records.”
Studies like the one conducted by Henry Ford, however, are more error-prone and less scientifically grounded, as Fauci testified. Fauci was able to cite studies that did meet the more rigorous standard of scientific analysis contradicting Henry Ford’s result. In fact, a study reported by COURIER showed the drug actually contributes to more fatalities.