Didier Raoul, head of the Mediterranean Institute of Infectious Diseases in Marseille, said his new treatment for coronavirus was very effective. A message about this appeared on the scientist’s Twitter account, as well as on the institution’s website.
Of the 1004 people who underwent treatment at the institute, 1003 were cured. One patient died. The technique developed by Raul is based on the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine. Patients take it in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin, which prevents the occurrence of bacterial superinfection.
Didier Raul and his colleagues had previously reported that hydroxychloroquine with azithromycin gives complete relief from coronavirus infection in less than a week. However, two previous work was performed on small samples of patients: 24 and 80 people, respectively. A new statement by a scientist can significantly change the attitude of the scientific community to the proposed treatment regimen.
However, it is too early to claim a breakthrough. None of the studies on the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine has yet been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Raoul’s critics also point out that this is not about experiments, but about observational studies, in which data is collected without active intervention in the events. In this case, a high probability of a systematic error.
No, not 'huge' I'm afraid. This is an observational study (i.e. not controlled) following 80 patients with fairly mild symptoms. The majority of patients recover form #COVID19 infection, with or without #Hchloroquine and #Azithromycin treatment … https://t.co/3WBFqf04G3
— Francois Balloux (@BallouxFrancois) March 28, 2020
An American pharmaceutical chemistry specialist, Derek Lowe, in his blog on Science Translational Medicine, also points out important design flaws in one of Raoul’s studies, such as changing discharge criteria for patients and lack of data on patients of various severity categories. In addition, although Low does not question the credibility of Didier Raoul as a scientist, he notes that the Frenchman was the co-author of several scientifically questionable articles in which duplicate microphotographs were found and the results of the blot analysis changed in the photo editor.
Also, one of the complaints about the work of French scientists was the fact that the study was conducted only on patients who did not have signs of a serious illness. Philippe Gotre, one of the co-authors of Didier Raoul, explained this fact in an interview with AFP: “Our strategy was precisely to treat them at this stage, to stop the disease to a more serious stage”.