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Hydroxychloroquine: the conspiracy theorists’ answer to coronavirus, explained

Over in the conspiracy alcove of the internet, there is talk that medical experts have in fact found the cure for the ongoing and devastating coronavirus pandemic. The solution? Apparently, a simple malaria tablet called hydroxychloroquine.

Despite being labelled as “ineffective” by the World Health Organisation, as well as condemned by the US Food and Drug Association, who are calling for the administration of the drug to stop; hydroxychloroquine has seen excessive demand and interest worldwide. President Donald Trump has green-lighted the drug saying “it’s safe and doesn’t cause problems.” So, what’s the big deal and why aren’t health authorities backing the seemingly magical cure?

Hydroxychloroquine

Malaria treatment hydroxychloroquine is apparently the cure for coronavirus, but conspiracy theorists say we can’t get our hands on it because you know, government control or something.

If Hydroxychloroquine sounds kinda familiar, it may be because it made the rounds in earlier media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, showing hope as a quick and easy fix to stop the steadily growing virus. Oh, and Trump has been backing the drug since day 1, but we’ll get into that in a bit.

In early 2020, hydroxychloroquine was all the rage. Some studies suggested that the drug could shorten the duration of a patient’s suffering when diagnosed with the virus. However, this hope shortly dropped off as subsequent studies indicated it really didn’t show a positive effect at all.

Oxford University jumped in, funding a clinical trial that saw 11,000 coronavirus patients across the UK treated with the drug. The definitive conclusion: simply, there was “no beneficial effect.” Since then, the drug has been pulled from the University’s coronavirus vaccine testing altogether.

But in classic Trump fashion, the President continued to boast about the drug in press conferences. In April, he even declared: “What do you have to lose? Take it.” Though that’s not the entire truth, as hydroxychloroquine is well documented for increasing serious heart problems, and in some cases, resulting in death.

Naturally, medical institutions, for the most part, have been denying hydroxychloroquine to patients. But this has caused other issues. With coronavirus anxiety through the roof, especially across America, people have been trying to get their hands on the drug outside of traditional medical settings, causing more trouble than good.

Reportedly, users across the world have been poisoning themselves and even overdosing on the drug because they don’t have the right medical advice or guidelines. The WHO has responded by advising people not to self-medicate and “has cautioned against physicians and medical associations recommending or administering these unproven treatments.” But that advice is not being easily swallowed, with many of these users distrusting the WHO as pushers of fake news in the first place.

President Trump has been a persistent and vocal advocate for the drug, and last week he retweeted a video from the depths of the right-wing internet, re-sparking mainstream interest in the drug. The video in question features America’s so-called “Frontline Doctors” who promote hydroxychloroquine as the cure for COVID-19.

Since the video premiered, the drug has garnered a number of high-profile advocates, including America’s pop queen Madonna, President Bolsonaro of Brazil, as well as Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.

Madonna’s now-deleted Instagram repost of the live-stream shows a group of alleged scientists in white coats with the words “America’s Frontline Doctors” stitched onto their chests. These figures claim that masks and quarantine are all unnecessary because hydroxychloroquine can solve the problem.

The most prominent woman pictured in the video, Stella Immanuel, is a Houston GP, but also a known radical conspiracy theorist who has claimed that having sex with demons causes endometriosis. In the clip, she states: “This virus has a cure. It is called hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax. I know you people want to talk about a mask. Hello? You don’t need [a] mask. There is a cure.”

The video spread like wildfire, first through conservative, anti-vax, and government conspiracy forums online. Within hours, the clip had surfaced into the mainstream reaching over 20 million Facebook accounts. The whole thing is basically conspiracy theorists hijacking COVID-19 anxiety, with the ideas being given further exposure by the likes of American pop stars and world leaders.

Amidst fears that more people will start administering the drug to themselves, Government officials are being pressured to continue testing. Today, there are more than 200 medical trials underway across the globe still investigating hydroxychloroquine’s impact either as a prophylactic or treatment for Covid-19, despite being given up by Oxford University.

If we want a real remedy for the coronavirus maybe we should start listening to what real medical experts have to say, and not those who are known for promoting outlandish conspiracies online.