• Sebastian Leck

FACT CHECK: Do hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax cure COVID-19?

Screenshot of a video of Stella Immanuel shared on Twitter on July 27, 2020.

FALSE. There is no known cure for COVID-19. The anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine hasn’t proven to be an effective treatment or cure for COVID-19 in clinical trials.

On July 27, a video of what appeared to be a press conference went viral on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. In the video, a group of doctors wearing white lab coats make a series of claims about the COVID-19 virus, including the assertion that there is a cure for COVID-19. “Nobody needs to get sick,” one of the doctors says in the video. “This virus has a cure, it is called hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax.”

The video was shared by US President Donald Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., and various anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown accounts. Twitter suspended Donald Trump Jr.’s account for twelve hours for spreading misinformation, and Facebook and YouTube have been removing various versions of the video from their platforms. Even so, a video on Breitbart’s Facebook page received millions of views before it was taken down.

The doctor who made the claim about hydroxychloroquine was Stella Immanuel, a Cameroonian-American physician who has previously claimed that “alien DNA” is used in medical treatments and that semen from supernatural demons can cause gynecological issues like cysts or endometriosis. In the video, she also says that the pharmaceutical industry is funding “fake science” to purposely discredit hydroxychloroquine.

Immanuel’s claims are false. Hydroxychloroquine is not considered to be an effective treatment for COVID-19 either on its own or combined with any other drug.

Studies on hydroxychloroquine have delivered disappointing results

There is no known cure for COVID-19. Trials for potential vaccines are ongoing, but it will be several months—if not longer—until a vaccine is ready.

Hydroxychloroquine has been investigated as a potential treatment for patients with COVID-19, but most of the evidence available shows it is not effective. Early on in the COVID-19 crisis, a few studies suggested that the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin—what Immanuel refers to as Zithromax—could reduce the death rate among patients. There were also papers from New York University and a German research team that suggested that the combination of hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, and zinc could be an effective treatment.

However, three large randomized clinical trials that concluded in June found no significant beneficial effect of hydroxychloroquine, and the US National Institutes of Health halted its clinical trial after finding that it provided no benefits to patients. The World Health Organization has since ended its hydroxychloroquine research, and the American FDA has advised against using the drug as a treatment, warning that it can cause heart rhythm problems.

Health Canada, for its part, warned in April that hydroxychloroquine can cause “serious side effects” and that risks of side effects could increase if it is used alongside drugs like azithromycin. It has not approved the drug for the treatment of COVID-19 outside of clinical trials.

One recent study has caused confusion and further fuelled conspiracy theories about hydroxychloroquine. The paper, published in the medical journal The Lancet, was retracted when scientists became concerned about the source of the original data. Though it has been used to claim that there is a conspiracy against hydroxychloroquine, the retraction suggests that the scientific process is working as it should: unsupported conclusions are challenged and overturned rather than covered up.

Overall, the claim that COVID-19 can be cured by hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax is false.

Screenshot via Twitter.