Rule Number One of Modern Journalism - Always Go for the Man
It seems that Rule Number One of modern Journalism is "Always Go For the Man, Not The Ball". It is done in everything - from OPCW Scandals to COVID19. By the way, we should not forget; Rule Number Two: "Always shove your agenda down the reader's throat". A modern journalist to go to any number of F...Agains in anything to comply with those rules and the story of Hydroxychloroquine and COVID19 provides an excellent illustration for both.
First of all some background: Both me and my SWMBO have studied molecular biology. She actually has a PhD while for me it was my second MSc (first is Chemistry) and I dropped out of it to pursue a career in IT.
Why Hydroxychloroquine and is it of Interest in COVID19?
When the first descriptions of the clinical picture of COVID19 came out, we had a chat at the dinner table (with some input from junior who is also studying Biology) and we both reached the same conclusion - the later stages of the disease when it affects the lungs have many hallmarks of an autoimmune reaction - the body starts attacking itself. Is that the case or not, we do not know yet, but it looks like that when you read the clinical description.
From this perspective, the idea of administering a drug against autoimmune disorders to COVID19 patients which have the acute form is in the realm of bleeding obvious. In fact, the Chinese did that and the first data on the subject is Chinese. They found out that most anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant drugs unfortunately have the opposite effect and aggravate the disease. They also narrowed down on a likely candidate - hydroxychloroquine which is used widely around the world to treat what is probably the most common autoimmune condition - Lupus. It also has a most interesting side effect which is quite uncommon in anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant drugs - it actually has some level of anti-viral activity.
Due to the outbreak in China being near its end, they did not have enough patients to run a big enough trial to verify it.
The Chinese research was taken onboard by Dr Dider Rault - a French doctor, which as a virologist (we will come to this later) is fairly reputable and has a long list of grants and publications. He ran a VERY LIMITED trial which was reasonably successful and published the results. To put it bluntly, he did what was pretty bleeding obvious at the time and built on top of existing research from Wuhan. If two people with general background in biology come up with a similar idea at a dinner table after first read, this means that his idea is not particularly revolutionary.
This is the point where research like this is usually put into the field for trials. If the situation is as dire as it is now, most medical authorities will also skirt at least some of the rules getting this out in the field, especially if it is likely to comply with the Hippocrates Oath principle: "You shall do no harm". That is probably the case with Hydroxychloroquine. It is a fairly weak immunosuppressant and it is a known (albeit weak) antiviral. So, if the later stages of the disease are indeed autoimmune, it is not likely to be harmful like the wide spectrum immunosuppressants which will prevent patients from fighting secondary infections.
What is more interesting is not what Dr Dider Rault did and published. What is more interesting is what followed.
We now have two distinct groups of people screaming via loud hailers about his discovery.
Group A - all the usual alt-right and Faux News as well as populist ruler lunatics which are shoving his research into our face as the ultimate panacea which has been proven as working.
Group B - all the usual "liberals" (we really need to put this in quotes nowadays) screaming that it is unproven and trying to deny it field trials by any means necessary.
So WTF is going on?
Well, Dr Didier Rault is a very outspoken individual with opinions on a multitude of topics. In fact, he has an ego the size of a USS Enterprise (it is big even by French standards). Amidst all things.. Oh, my god, gasp..., he has an opinion on Global Warming. Oh my god, he even has the temerity to have a negative opinion on it.
Red Alert, Red Alert, Red Alert, crew to battle stations, shields, up, man the phazers, proton torpedoes fire at will.
What we have now is all the religious lunatics of the "no global warming cult" defending him out of principle and not because of the merit(s) or demerit(s) of his work. Similarly all the lunatics of the "global warming is caused by CO2 and will shortly kill us all" cult doing the opposite - attacking him ad-hominem. In the meantime, what may or may not (subject to trials), be a valuable tool in dealing with the damage from later stages of COVID19 infection is caught in the crossfire.
Frankly, Pox on Both Of Their Houses, Pox on their Editors, Pox on their Newspapers, Pox on them, their progeny and their progenitors. Let the f*cking trials take place. The truth will show itself at the end. As it is something that is not likely to be harmful, there is no harm in trialing it in a bigger trial.
As far as Global Warming is concerned, walk outside - the temperature is once again 2 degrees under forecast and markedly low in the last week. It is the same as after 9/11. Quite clearly the contrails from aircraft have a much higher role than our CO2 emissions and we have now managed to prove this experimentally. Twice. That also means that the models being circulated are quite clearly a pile of sh*te and need to be rerun using the experimental data collected from 9/11 and this incident even if this means that our answer to the problem will be shutting down the airline industry as we know it.
Update - 28.03.2020
The Russians have published a treatment protocol based on the drug which they claim is successful. It combines the drug with constant monitoring and a cocktail of antibiotics for treating secondary infections which is usually reserved as 2nd or even 3rd line treatment.
It is now authorized for use in their clinics as standard treatment.
While we can continue bickering about lack of sufficient data, the Oligarchy has made a choice - there is a steady flow of private jets flowing from Western Europe and USA to Moscow starting from the middle of the week of 21st of March. You can check it yourself on flightradar24.
Update 2 - 30.03.2020
One of the reporters of what is probably one of the best newspapers in Europe - MK has contracted COVID19. I usually read them each morning and each evening after El Pais and before the Guardian. They are regularly at the "site of the events while the ground is still smoking" and have a newswire on par with AFP and Washington Post.
To cut a long story short, she describes her entire experience with discovering it, the ambulance pickup and the trip to the hospital.
There is a lot of interesting detail in that (if you cannot read the language, use Google Translate). Something, however, immediately caught my attention - the pickup protocol. The patient is given two injections. One is an antipyretic (that is not surprising). The other one, however is a fairly powerful first generation non-steroid antihistamine which is in use only in the Eastern Block - https://en.wikipedia.or/wiki/Chloropyramine
It is the stuff they give you when you are taken to hospital with anaphylaxis. It is also a quick and ugly dampener to ensure autoimmune reactions do not go out of control as it equally suppresses them as well. So they are clearly working off the same "working hypothesis" as Dr Didier Rault