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More Shoddy Hydroxychloroquine Journalism

(Pixabay)

Last week, I wrote about the stupidity of rooting against hydroxychloroquine simply because Donald Trump has mentioned that it holds some therapeutic promise in the fight against coronavirus. This NBC News piece by Heidi Przybyla is the kind of shoddy journalism to which I was referring:

A New York woman with coronavirus symptoms died last week after being prescribed a drug cocktail with known cardiac side effects, and family members say she was not tested for COVID-19 or for heart problems before receiving the medication.

The piece goes on to mention — twice — that Trump touted the drug, and notes that Media Matters says that Fox News touts the drug. But it offers no evidence that the woman’s death had anything to do with hydroxychloroquine.

Despite strongly suggesting that Trump had a hand in death of a defenseless 65-year-old woman, the reporter failed to speak to the physician who prescribed the drugs, or even to obtain additional confirmation about the cause of death.

And even if the drug did play some role in the woman’s death — it’s certainly possible; every drug has side effects, and there are over confirmed 200,000 coronavirus cases in New York City — the piece offers no evidence that doctors in Queens, New York are handing out z-packs because the president mentioned hydroxychloroquine during a press conference.

A recent poll found that 65 percent of physicians in United States would prescribe chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 in a family member.  Whether hydroxychloroquine ends up being one of the answers (or other drugs), one assumes there are some medical reasons to believe the drug might hold promise.

The NBC article relies only on the non-medical claims of a distraught family. One relative, incidentally, says that the woman hadn’t even been tested for coronavirus. The doctor, according to the family, didn’t even examine the patient or ask if the patient had a heart condition.

If this is true, then perhaps the doctor was negligent, because azithromycin is known to cause heart arrhythmias — and it’s why doctors keep a close eye on patients who are now mixing hydroxychloroquine with other drugs. But both hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin have been widely used for decades, and most doctors are well acquainted with their side effects. Indeed, Americans with lupus and other autoimmune problems have been taking hydroxychloroquine and dealing with the same side effects for decades, too. Searching for horror stories such as this one — ignoring basic journalistic standards to run a predetermined gotcha — is not only transparently partisan and amateurish, it’s one of the reasons people have such a hard time trusting the news.

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