House debates

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Grievance Debate

COVID-19: Hydroxychloroquine

6:57 pm

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

During my lifetime I've seen many examples where there has been complete abandonment of reason—media bias has led to groupthink—but never have I seen a worse example of this than the war we are currently witnessing on the drug hydroxychloroquine. It's not about whether my opinion thinks the drug is effective or not. It's about whether the big hand of government has the right to interfere in a doctor-patient relationship, and to say to the doctor, 'You cannot prescribe this drug to your patient if you think not only would it help them, but it may save their life.' That's what we're currently doing in Australia. At the state level, we have state governments that are putting rulings in that are making a doctor liable to go to prison if he prescribes hydroxychloroquine to one of his patients if he thinks it may save their life.

What is this based on? It's based on the findings of our National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce. Their recommendation says: 'Based on the available evidence, hydroxychloroquine is potentially harmful and no more effective than standard care in treating patients with COVID-19. We therefore recommend that hydroxychloroquine should not be used.' How do they come to that recommendation? Well, they go on: 'Evidence informing this recommendation comes from nine randomised trials that compared hydroxychloroquine plus standard care to standard care alone.' But when you look at those nine trials that they looked at, not one of them looks at the way hydroxychloroquine, or the doctors that advocate for this drug, say it should be used. The doctors say it should be used with zinc and also an antibiotic such as azithromycin. That is how they advocated for it, and also that it must be prescribed and taken in the first five days after someone becomes infected. But none of those nine trials that this evidence task force looked at actually looked at the drug under those circumstances. So they should simply be completely irrelevant to what their recommendation is.

But it gets worse. They go on: 'The vast majority of evidence is from the recovery trial which randomised 4,716 hospital patients with COVID.' The recovery trial. What they actually did in the recovery trial, which was in the UK, was they gave the patients—sick patients that had come down with COVID, that were very sick and frail—a dose of 2,400 milligrams of hydroxychloroquine in the first 24 hours. 2,400 milligrams doesn't mean much unless you compare it. That is actually four to six times higher than the recommended dose. So they dosed these people up with a toxic overdose of this drug. In fact the French medical literature says that a dose of only 1,800 milligrams in the first 24 hours, for someone that is 75 kilograms, is considered an overdose and can result in cardiac arrest and respiratory arrest. Yet in this trial they loaded these people up with well above what is a known overdose.

This scandal gets worse. A French magazine asked the gentleman behind this trial to explain the 2,400 milligrams. I quote from the French magazine. This is FranceSoir. The quote was: 'We have chosen the dosage that is in line with dosages for other diseases such as amoebic dysentery.' A Professor Perronne said to that comment: 'This is the first time I have learned that we have used hydroxychloroquine for amoebic dysentery in supertoxic doses.' He said: 'The classic treatment for amoebic dysentery is another drug called hydroxyquinoline.' Professor Perronne concluded: 'I think they confused hydroxychloroquine with hydroxyquinoline.' Professor Perronne's quote was: 'This man who calls himself a doctor, the person behind this trial, is incompetent and dangerous.'

Yet this is the trial that our national COVID evidence task force hold up as their gold standard, as the reason why they interfere in that doctor-patient relationship. In that study, the study's result, that so-called recovery trial, 27.5 per cent of the people loaded up with that toxic dose died within 28 days, compared to 23 per cent that didn't get that drug. This is an outrage and a disgrace. Yet this is what our clinical evidence task force is based upon.

What about a second opinion about hydroxychloroquine? Let's take a second opinion from a gentleman called Professor Harvey Risch. Who is Professor Risch? He is the Professor of Epidemiology at Yale, someone with almost 40-plus years of experience. His words were: 'I conclude the evidence is overwhelming. There is no question that for people who need to be treated and are treated early, it'—hydroxychloroquine—'has a very substantial benefit in reducing the risk of hospitalisation or mortality.' He continued: 'I am an expert in science, and I can tell you the science is all one-sided. In fact, the science is so one-sided in supporting this result'—that is, that hydroxychloroquine is effective—'that it is stronger than anything else I've studied in my entire career.' This is a gentleman with more than 45 years experience as a medical doctor. He says:

The evidence in favour of Hydroxychloroquine benefit in high risk patients treated early as out-patients is stronger than anything else I've ever studied.

Yet we have bans on Australians being able to get this prescribed by their doctor.

It's said that there are no studies that support this. Only yesterday there was a study from Belgium that looked at 8,075 hospitalised patients and 4,524 patients who were given hydroxychloroquine as a treatment. These were all patients who had contracted COVID. They compared them against a group of 3,533 who didn't get hydroxychloroquine. These are the results. Those who didn't get hydroxychloroquine had a 53 per cent increased chance of dying. And yet we have banned it.

Time doesn't allow me to go on, but there are studies after studies. Yes, these are only observational studies, but the statistical chance of all these observational studies being wrong is approaching zero. There are studies from Spain and from Italy. They go on and on. I'm asking our national COVID evidence task force to look at the evidence and to make separate recommendations for the use of hydroxychloroquine as a prophylaxis and also in the early stage of treatment. The recommendations they have made are only on evidence that is in a late stage of treatment.

There are many brave doctors supporting this and speaking out against a media groupthink. One of them is Dr Kulvinder Kaur, a brave doctor out of Canada. She said why she supports hydroxychloroquine. She said, 'My moral conscience won't allow me to silently watch people die and suffer when we have the means to save them.' I will conclude with the words of Professor Risch. He said:

In the future, I believe this misbegotten episode regarding hydroxychloroquine will be studied by sociologists of medicine as a classic example of how extra-scientific factors overrode clear-cut medical evidence. But for now, reality demands a clear, scientific eye on the evidence and where it points. For the sake of high-risk patients, for the sake of our parents and grandparents, for the sake of the unemployed, for our economy and for our polity … we must start treating immediately.

(Time expired)