American medical practitioner Stella Immanuel claims in a viral Facebook video that she has successfully treated more than 350 people with COVID-19 using hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax.
The Houston-based pediatrician also claims that hiccups are a symptom of COVID-19 and that hydroxychloroquine does not cause heart problems.
Global interest in hydroxychloroquine was sparked when studies in France and China suggested that it could be used to treat COVID-19. The drug was endorsed by US President Donald Trump and his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro, but subsequent research has shown that the hydroxychloroquine is not effective as a COVID-19 remedy.
Hydroxychloroquine has traditionally been used to treat malaria and other conditions such as arthritis and lupus. It has also been used to reduce fever and inflammation, and the hope has been that it could also inhibit the virus that causes COVID-19.
We fact-checked three claims from the viral video:
Does hydroxychloroquine cure COVID-19?
Dr Immanuel pointed to a 2005 study published by the United States National Institute of Health (NIH) to back her claims on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine and claimed that big pharma companies may have conspired against the use of the drug to treat COVID-19.
However, the US Food and Drug Administration has cautioned against using hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients.
The NIH, an institution Dr Immanuel pins her evidence on, also cautioned against the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat people with COVID-19 and halted its clinical trials, concluding it provided no benefit to the patients.
Another study involving 11,000 COVID-19 patients conducted by Oxford University in the UK also concluded that “there is no beneficial effect of hydroxychloroquine on patients hospitalized with COVID-19,” and has now pulled the drug from the trial.
Meanwhile, trials launched by the World Health Organization and partners to assess the viability of the drug were also scrapped after it produced “little or no reduction in the mortality of hospitalized patients”. Likewise, the Food and Drug Administration declined to approve the drug for the treatment of COVID-19, over concerns it posed a risk of causing heart rhythm problems.
According to the WHO, there is no approved treatment for COVID-19 at the moment but the race is on to develop a vaccine.
Therefore, the claim that hydroxychloroquine cures COVID-19 is false.
Are hiccups a symptom of COVID-19?
Typical symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, myalgia, and sore throat. Other less common symptoms such as persistent hiccups, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea have also been reported.
Studies published by Dr Garrett Prince and Dr Michelle Sergel in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine and by Mohamed Zahran of the Alexandria University College of Medicine show that there are rare cases where COVID-19 patients suffered persistent hiccups as the main symptom. However, the Alexandria University study is in preprint, and has not undergone peer review.
The claim that some patients with COVID-19 suffer hiccups is true, though this is not classified as a major symptom by both the WHO and Centre for Disease Control.
Hydroxychloroquine does not cause heart problems among COVID-19 patients
The US Food and Drug Administration’s review of safety issues with the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat hospitalized patients with COVID-19 showed that the patients exhibited serious heart rhythm problems as well as blood and lymph system disorders, kidney injuries and liver problems and failure.
The findings prompted the FDA to revoke the emergency use authorization to administer hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19 in certain hospitalized patients.
This study by the FDA shows that the use of hydroxychloroquine on hospitalized COVID-19 patients is linked to heart problems. It is therefore inaccurate to say that hydroxychloroquine is not associated with heart complications.
This story was produced by PesaCheck.