Dr Stella Immanuel during the controversial address
Apparently pressured by the ‘powers that be,’ Facebook has taken down a video posted by the United States right-wing news site Breitbart and retweeted by President Trump, showing a doctor vehemently making ‘false’ claims that antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine is a “cure for COVID-19” that allegedly racked up 17 million views before being removed.
The video shows a group of people calling themselves “America’s Frontline Doctors”, standing on the steps of Capitol Hill, led by Stella Immanuel, a Houston-based doctor who labeled studies casting doubt on the effectiveness of the antimalarial drug as “fake science.”
Immanuel claimed that she is using the antimalarial drug because of a 2005 study, published by the National Institutes of Health, which claims Chloroquine, a more toxic version of hydroxychloroquine, can prevent the spread of coronavirus in cells.
She claimed that she put herself and her staff on hydroxychloroquine as a prophylaxis, and that she treated more than 300 patients and none of them died.
Yet last month, the NIH halted a clinical trial of the drug, saying that while a study showed that treatment caused no harm, the drug was “very unlikely to be beneficial to hospitalised patients with COVID-19.”
The NIH also advises against using the drug as a treatment for coronavirus. The video has since been removed from Facebook and YouTube, with Facebook’s Policy Communications Director, Andy Stone tweeting: “We removed it for sharing false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19.”
But versions of the video continued to circulate on Twitter as of Tuesday morning, with one version retweeted by Trump, according to a screenshot by the Daily Mail, before being deleted. Trump revealed in May that he was taking a two-week dose of hydroxychloroquine prophylactically. Forbes has contacted the America’s Frontline Doctors group and Breitbart for comment.
The New York Times’ tech correspondent, Kevin Roose, said he couldn’t remember any video that “spread this quickly,” adding that it spread faster than conspiracy film ‘Plandemic’ that was viewed at least 8 million times before social networks took action.
While YouTube took the clip down, a 2-hour stream of the same group of doctors making similar claims about hydroxychloroquine, citing limited studies, remains on the Breitbart YouTube channel.
There is no approved treatment for coronavirus, and the race is on to develop a vaccine that could be available later this year. Global interest in hydroxychloroquine, a drug normally used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, exploded earlier this year after small studies in France and China suggested that it could be used to treat COVID-19.
Public endorsement by populist leaders like President Donald Trump and Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro drummed up interest in the drug but subsequent research has shown that the treatment did not benefit coronavirus patients, and further WHO trials were scrapped. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the drug to treat COVID-19. Along with the NIH, the FDA says it can trigger abnormal heart rhythms.