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Trump’s ‘gift from God’ drug, espoused by Jewish doctor, does not prevent coronavirus: study

Hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug touted by President Donald Trump as a treatment for Covid-19 — and taken by him to prevent contracting the disease — does not prevent against coronavirus infection when taken prophylactically, a new study found.

The study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, is the first double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the drug, meaning that neither the researchers administering the drug to research subjects, nor the subjects themselves, knew if they were taking hydroxychloroquine or a simple vitamin supplement. That methodology is considered the “gold standard” of medical research.

Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, a Hasidic doctor in New York who has made it his mission to promote the use of hydroxychloroquine to prevent hospitalization by using it to treat high-risk individuals with early symptoms, both criticized the study and touted the fact that it found that the drug is safe overall.

Zelenko’s approach, of prescribing hydroxychloroquine at the earliest signs of Covid-19 symptoms in high-risk individuals, is currently the subject of a controlled study at a hospital on Long Island, which will not release its results until next year.

Zelenko has advised other countries to use the drug prophylactically, however, and said that he took it himself to prevent infection, because he is immunocompromised.

The study’s subjects, who were mailed either the drug or the placebo immediately after being exposed to a Covid-19 patient, were front-line medical workers and first responders. Of the 821 people included in the study’s final results, 88% had high-risk exposures; 12% of the people taking hydroxychloroquine contracted the disease, compared with 14% of those taking the placebo. The study authors concluded that this was not a statistically meaningful difference.

The study did find that the drug, overall, is safe, citing no instances of serious side affects besides nausea and diarrhea. Previous analyses of observational data of hospitalized patients taking the drug found heightened risks of cardiac arrest compared with no use of the drug.

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at feldman@forward.com or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman

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