A controversial French doctor on Monday insisted he stood by his belief that anti-viral drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can help patients recover from the coronavirus, rejecting a study that indicated there was no benefit.
Marseille-based doctor Professor Didier Raoult has earned huge prominence in France during the crisis for his controversial beliefs and was visited by President Emmanuel Macron in person as the head of state sounded out experts.
Raoult has consistently argued that the drugs have a tangible benefit, a stance that has been loudly backed by President Donald Trump who has said he has even been taking hydroxychloroquine as a precaution.
“How can a messy study done with ‘big data’ change what we see?”, Raoult asked in a video posted on the website of his infectious diseases hospital in Marseille.
“Here we have had 4,000 people go through our hospital, you don’t think I’m going to change because there are people who do ‘big data’, which is a kind of completely delusional fantasy,” he said.
His comments came as the World Health Organization said it was suspending trial of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment over safety concerns.
“Nothing will change what I have seen with my own eyes,” added Raoult.
Hydroxychloroquine is normally used to treat arthritis while chloroquine is an anti-malarial. Both drugs can produce potentially serious side effects, particularly heart arrhythmia.
Raoult, a distinctive figure with his shoulder-length shaggy grey hair, ended the video by repeating another controversial claim that “this is the end of the epidemic.”
Looking at the records of 96,000 patients across hundreds of hospitals, the study published in The Lancet found that administering the drugs actually increased the risk of dying.
Macron met Raoult at his hospital in April as the president canvassed opinion about the next policy steps to make in the fight against the coronavirus.
The Elysee insisted at the time that the visit - which raises eyebrows in some quarters - did not represent any kind of “recognition” of the professor’s methods.