Beyond the Curve: Dr. Peter G. Lurie's COVID-19 blog

I suppose it makes a kind of twisted sense. If you actually believe that your candidate, who lost by 14 percent of the electoral college, 7 percent of the popular vote, and in dozens of post-election legal challenges, actually won, then maybe you would also believe that hydroxychloroquine was effective in the treatment or prevention of COVID-19.

So let’s hear it for Sen. Ron Johnson, Chair of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, who today at 10 a.m. Eastern hosts a hearing with a title resembling the final episode in a failing Hollywood franchise: Early Outpatient Treatment: An Essential Part of a COVID-19 Solution, Part II. Like all tired franchises, if you want to know what will happen in Part II, just watch Part I, which screened on November 19.

The Washington Post opened its story covering the first hearing like this:

"On the day that new coronavirus cases across the United States hit their highest total since the pandemic began, the Senate Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on an antimalarial drug that has repeatedly been shown to be ineffective at treating covid-19.

"As the country logged 185,424 daily infections Thursday [make that over 200,000 recently], the committee spent more than two hours revisiting discussion about hydroxychloroquine as a potential covid-19 treatment — a debate that leading health experts say was settled months ago."

Seems like it’s time to foist a sequel upon an unwitting public. Even as we witness the unfolding of the true sequel – the pandemic’s second wave – today’s hearing will feature more of the same piffle that marred the original in the series, including Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Here’s someone who somehow combines enthusiasm for the long-discredited hydroxychloroquine (see what I foolishly thought was my final blog on the topic in June here) with skepticism about vaccines that have, at least in press releases, claimed efficacy in the range of 95%.

In advance of the hearing, I teamed up with the estimable Ashish Jha of Brown University and Aaron Kesselheim of Harvard to pull together a letter, signed by dozens of public health experts, including medical journal editors, leading researchers, and a former Surgeon General, standing up for strong scientific standards: “We cannot allow groups and individuals pushing unproven treatments to threaten the progress we have made in medical science, including the fundamental scientific commitment to accepting data as the basis for clinical decision and public health making.”

Yes, as the saying goes, elections have consequences. So does giving a podium to long-discredited science.