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‘Miracle drug’ Dr. Vladimir Zelenko is tweeting pro-Trump conspiracy theories

Dr. Vladimir Zelenko is just one week out of what he has described as an emergency heart surgery to remove a tumor.

But the country’s most famous proponent of hydroxychloroquine is already back online: He’s promoting the unproven drug as a treatment for COVID-19 and tweeting conspiratorially about what he sees as the political reasons it’s not being widely prescribed.

“Battleground states will begin to ban hcq use because it has the dangerous side effect of getting Potus reelected,” read a tweet sent from Zelenko’s main Twitter account Friday morning, implying that widespread use of the drug would vindicate Donald Trump’s focus on it as treatment for Covid-19.

In another tweet sent later that morning from Zelenko’s main Twitter account, he wrote sarcastically that hydroxychloroquine is safe but “causes psychotic breakdown” at the New York Times and Washington Post, and in “creatures name Soros and Gates, a reptile named Fauci, and humanoid mutants named antifas.”

Zelenko began his crusade to get doctors to prescribe presumptive Covid-19 patients hydroxychloroquine on an outpatient basis in March, when many doctors were experimenting with possible treatments for an uncontrollable virus. At that point, he was not using highly charged political language.

But as hydroxychloroquine has been questioned repeatedly by scientific studies, his rhetoric has taken on conspiratorial edges and political overtones, coming to mirror the theories espoused by right-wing social media figures about the “Deep State” or Big Pharma’s role in the pandemic.

“This pandemic is over,” he said in a video this week. “There’s another pandemic, which is not over, which is the pandemic of falsehood, of lies, of false hysteria, mass panic and artificially suppressed economies.”

Hydroxychloroquine remains unproven as a prophylactic for coronavirus or in treating mild cases, though it has been in widespread use among hospitalized patients since the beginning of the pandemic. The first randomized clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine found that, while generally safe, it performed no better than a placebo in preventing contraction of Covid-19 among people exposed to the disease.

A more recent randomized trial of the drug concluded that it fared no better than standard care in people with mild-to-moderate cases of Covid-19.

Trump took up the hydroxychloroquinine banner months ago, touting it as a “miracle” and raising Zelenko’s profile. Despite the testing done on the drug, the president continues to push it publicly. On Tuesday, Twitter removed a tweet reposted by Trump, of a video suggesting that hydroxychloroquine is a “cure” for Covid-19.

Trump has also retweeted messages claiming that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, misled the country by urging caution in use of the drug. Fauci responded by noting that randomized clinical trials “show consistently that hydroxychloroquine is not effective in the treatment of coronavirus disease or Covid-19.”

But the president’s fixation with the drug has been felt throughout his party: On Wednesday, a day after Trump’s retweet was taken down, Ohio’s pharmacy board reversed an impending ban on the drug in treating Covid-19 after its Republican governor urged it to do so.

The board had cited “patient safety issues” in deciding to ban its prescription at pharmacies. Governor Mike DeWine said in a tweet that he wanted the board to “examine this issue based on the best science.”

Zelenko had suggested on Twitter that the Ohio pharmacy board’s ban was tantamount to “tyranny.”

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman


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