‘I believe you have to be willing to be misunderstood if you’re going to innovate.’ ~ Jeff Bezos
The WHO announced the world is in the grip of a devastating pandemic, millions of deaths are predicted and in order to stop the spread of SARS-cov-2, the virus that causes COVID19, the world’s economy has been shut down. This is unprecedented in the history of humanity. Most governments have put their citizens under virtual house arrest in an attempt to suppress the spread of the virus, and almost six months into the crisis, the media continues to stoke fear and panic across the globe.
In this chaos, a mantra has emerged. According to the WHO and the scientific advisors to the UK and the US in particular, there are no effective treatments or cure for COVID19. The only solution to the pandemic will come in the form of a global vaccine. More than seventy companies and hundreds of billions of dollars are currently involved in the race to bring it to market. Faced with a pandemic dangerous enough to warrant shutting down the world, it might be imagined that scientists and government health departments would be collaborating, in a scramble to find urgent solutions to mitigate the death rate.
It has been peculiar therefore, given the official narrative of a deadly pandemic on track to kill millions, to witness the rejection of one potential treatment after another.
In anticipation of the surge in cases of COVID19’s Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), ventilators were the first technology to be overwhelmed. No countries had enough and patients died waiting for access. It became clear fairly early on that many critical COVID19 cases did not present as ARDS, but rather as a desaturation of oxygen in the blood not improved by ventilation. Ventilation is always a risk and even for survivors, the lung damage inflicted by ventilation can be lifelong. In COVID19 cases, ventilation raised the ventilator death rate from 50% to 80%. It has been reported that frontline medical doctors who pushed for an urgent change of protocol found it hard to have their voices heard.
The French experience
The inexpensive pharmaceutical drug, Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), already on the market for seventy years, was dismissed immediately by Public Health England, citing lack of a peer-reviewed and published clinical trial in relation to COVID19. That’s despite the average drug trial taking at least a year to publication, and the identification of COVID19 being made a mere five months ago. HQC has been safely used as an anti-malarial and a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus for decades. In the US, Dr Anthony Fauci, the scientific advisor to the Whitehouse, dismissed its potential and refused to trial it.
Meanwhile in France, Professor Didier Raoult, considered the world’s number one communicable disease specialist, together with his colleagues, developed a protocol for the new presentation of COVID19 that showed remarkable promise in critical care departments. After trialling the protocol of hydroxychloroquine, azithomycin, an antibiotic, and zinc sulphate with 3,000 patients, he reported an almost 100% success rate, moving patients from critical care to recovery in as little as 5 days at the cost of 50 pence a dose.
Prof Raoult observed that. “As Chloroquine has proven its efficacy in treating the COVID19 disease, using it is now a matter of public policy, and not of science”
Reluctant drug trials
It still apparently took pressure from medical professionals in critical care wards (and also remarkably the President of the US), before formal trials for HQC were commenced at a number of sites. To an outside observer, the trials might seem to have been set up to fail. One trial in Brazil used doses significantly higher than those recommended by the French, and the trial had to be stopped after patients experienced cardiac damage (a known side effect of high doses of HCQ). In other trials, individual components of the combined protocol used in France, were trialled separately, each found wanting and then the combined protocol rejected. In the UK trials have started in Scotland and health authorities are awaiting results. Meanwhile, when they have been able to procure it, thousands of desperate doctors on the frontline are reported to have used it anyway, to good effect.
New drug trials
Billions of dollars are being poured into developing potential drugs for COVID19, so far the one tipped as favourite is Remedsivir, an expensive anti-viral which failed in Ebola trials and has been found to be highly toxic. Trials are currently running in critical care wards at various sites, including the UK, and if it found to have merit, it will be interesting to see the price point for treatment (so far suggested to be anywhere between $379 and $1,000). In the US the drug was found to reduce time in critical care from 15 to 11 days.
No information from Public Health England
It’s been also interesting to note that in what is officially a public health crisis, Public Health England has issued no information to the public beyond strategies to avoid contact with the virus. There has been no attempt to encourage the population to improve their own health and therefore their immunity to infectious disease in general, and to COVID19 in particular. Citizens have been told to stay home and wait, in various states of ongoing fear, for the vaccine to be available.
There seems to be a fundamental disconnect between the health of the immune system and protection from infectious disease. Individual susceptibility it seems is never given a second thought. Infection, and the subsequent severity of illness, is viewed as a hit and miss question of luck for most of the population, while explicitly warning that elders, those with pre-existing conditions and those who are immune-compromised are especially at risk. So on the one hand there is a clear connection with the strength of the immune system, and on the other a rejection of any possible options to strengthen it, except as the result of a vaccine. This surely breaks the basic tenets of immunology?
IV Vitamin C backed by substantial evidence, and used to great effect in the treatment of COVID19 by doctors in China, was also initially rejected, although again some doctors on the front line have pushed to use it. Despite a wealth of evidence showing the value of even low dose Vitamin C in preventing and minimising the severity of infectious disease, the suggestion that supplementation might help support the public’s immune systems was pronounced ‘fake news’ by Simon Stevens, CEO of the NHS. Facebook, Google and YouTube were enlisted by the government to censor such advice online.
There are reports from the frontline that low levels of Vitamin D and Zinc seem particularly implicated in COVID19, but Public Health England’s recommendation for the public to top up their reserves of Vitamin D, took almost six months to be announced. Evidence for the need to supplement with Vitamin D during winter months in the Northern Hemisphere is well researched, and its implication in infectious disease is not new. Black, Asian and Middle Eastern (BAME) members of the population are particularly prone to low Vitamin D levels after winter, and given that a significantly high proportion of BAME workers in the NHS have succumbed to COVID19, this should surely have been urgent advice for all the BAME population from the outset.
Similarly there has been no attempt to encourage the population to improve levels of Zinc, also associated with a poor outcome from COVID19.
India acting out of character
The Indian government’s Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) promotes traditional healing therapies and, in the face of COVID19, advised various practices and protocols for boosting the immune system. These were publicly criticised by the WHO as unscientific and untested, even though India has relied on these ancient practices for thousands of years, and they form an integral part of India’s official healthcare system.
India’s supreme court then proceeded to impose bans on medical doctors who practice alternative systems of medicine like homeopathy, another integral part of India’s official healthcare system, from treating active cases of COVID19. Against the WHO’s advice, homeopathic doctors in India have dispensed preventative medicines to their local populations and business owners have given it to their workers. Homeopathic medical doctors are begging to be allowed to work alongside conventional doctors – for free – for the good of the patients. Since homeopathy is an accepted part of the Indian medical system, and prior to COVID19 has been used successfully as primary care medicine for hundreds of millions of Indians, this surely makes no sense? Especially since it is inexpensive and the majority of the population could not afford a pharmaceutical medicine even if one was available.
UPDATE: the situation in India seems to be constantly changing. Individual states are changing their directives, AYUSH has now supported a small number of research trials into traditional and alternative medicines, including homeopathy, on patients in quarantine. Already the trials are being criticised because they will not be standardised Random Controlled Trials. A homeopathic hospital in Bhopal announced success with COVID19 patients in quarantine, but the following day, under pressure from Bhopal authorities they withdrew their report. The report went against an order the AYUSH Ministry issued in April to all regulatory authorities, “to stop and prevent publicity and advertisement of AYUSH-related claims for COVID-19 treatment” in the media. It’s very hard to know what is happening on the ground.
Madagascar makes a stand
In early April, the president of Madagascar decreed that every citizen would receive a free daily dose of COVID Organics, a herbal preparation of artemesia, a well-known source of antimalarial medicine (with similar effects to the drug hydroxychloroquine). In a striking example of what can only be described as a kind of medical colonialism, Dr Tedros, head of the WHO, immediately decried COVID Organics as untested, and therefore potentially dangerous. He was backed up by Professor Brian Klass from University College London, who warned that it would give people a false sense of security and they could put themselves and others at risk. He remarked that “the country’s healthcare system is weak, with only six ventilators for a population of 27 million people…… It’s also one of the reasons why the island is one of the only places on the planet that regularly has outbreaks of bubonic plague, which is readily cured with the right medicine.” In the face of the WHO’s repeated assertion that there is “no treatment or cure”, Madagascar’s president felt there was nothing to lose by giving the population a herbal drink used to fortify the immune system. He made it clear that his decision was a matter of national sovereignty.
Tanzania has rejected the call for lockdown, and has arranged for imports of COVID Organics from Madagascar, several other African nations are following suit and the African Union is said to be organising trials.
In the absence of alternatives, other countries have also ignored ridicule and warnings from the WHO in their effort to protect their populations from COVID19.
Cuba does her thing
After fifty years of blockade, Cuba is used to having to innovate and do what works. All education is free, the country has the most highly educated population on the planet, and their main export is medical doctors, sent to help in humanitarian emergencies. Cuba has a fully integrated health system, the country is higher on the table of health measures than the US, at a fraction of the cost per head of population. Cuba also has a history of successfully dealing with epidemics: an H1N1 flu epidemic, outbreaks of Cholera and Dengue, and in 2007 a Leptospirosis epidemic which came after a severe hurricane season. Leptospirosis is a serious infectious disease, which if not treated, can lead to kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, respiratory distress and death.
Until 2007 the prestigious Finlay Institute, a conventional vaccine manufacturer, had produced and distributed a two-dose vaccine for Leptospirosis. However, during the severe hurricane season of 2007, there was only enough conventional vaccine for 1% of the population. So Cuba did what she does best and innovated. A two-dose homeopathic preventative was created by the Finlay Institute and distributed to 2.5 million people in the three most affected provinces. That year the total cases of Leptospirosis across the nation increased by 27%, but in the three provinces where the homeopathic preventative had been used, cases fell by 84% and overall deaths were reduced to single figures. The epidemic was stopped within two weeks and the levels of Leptospirosis fell far below the historical averages for several years afterwards. It surely makes perfect sense that after such an experience, Cuba would distribute the homeopathic preventative for COVID19, beginning with the most vulnerable members of the population.
As it stands today, May 17th, both Cuba and India are doing well in terms of their death rates per population size. (Of course there are many variables, so just a simple observation, Cuba has 79 deaths in a population of 11 million, or 7 deaths per million and India 2,897 deaths in a population of 1.3 billion, or 2 deaths per million, and at a fraction of the cost of a vaccine, if one existed. As a comparison, the UK currently stands at 515 deaths per million.)
Many parts of the world have retained their traditional medicines, bush teas and various herbal preparations that they rely on for many indigenous diseases. The WHO has pronounced all these possible options unscientific, useless or even dangerous in the COVID19 pandemic, while simultaneously repeating that there is no treatment or cure until the vaccine arrives.
In countries where pharmaceutical medicine is the dominant system, there has been no willingness to collaborate with other approaches, despite the stated absence of pharmaceutical options.
Any suggestion of immune system support, or other ways of supporting the population through COVID19 is swept aside, rejected or repressed and we are told to wait, in various levels of lockdown and fear, for a vaccine which may or may not materialise and may or may not be safe when/if it does arrive.
This surely must beg the question of why, in the face of the dead and dying, those responsible for policy making are, contrary to their insistence, clearly not doing everything they can to support the health of the population. They are not offering information about how to improve immunity, they are not willing to collaborate with other healthcare professionals or try options that might save some lives but will not improve the pharmaceutical industry’s bottom line. Who does it serve to deny possible treatments while waiting for the vaccine? Not the people and certainly not those in critical care.