If the experts can’t sort this out, what chance do you and I have? Well, it turns out we have a pretty good chance. Here's why: Coronavirus hit every country in the world with the same unique challenge, and each country took a different approach. By studying which countries were successful and which ones weren't, we can benchmark the things that work. No, it’s not perfect. There will always be data issues, timing issues, and hidden variables. But real world results have a story to tell, and we should probably listen closely when people are dying by the thousands each day.
With that in mind, I took a deep dive into the country data to see if I could untangle three big controversies swirling around the pandemic:
- Do masks work?
- Does Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) work?
- Which healthcare systems are handling Coronavirus the best?
Masks are not a consensus issue even today. There are still scientists and doctors who claim they are useless and even harmful. But as the above graph shows, the five countries that first embraced masks in Europe have much lower infection rates than their neighbors that never did. The five with the highest infection rates were either very late, or still do not wear masks today.
Think of Coronavirus as a car accident. The first strategy for surviving a car accident is avoiding one in the first place, right? For Coronavirus, wearing a mask is like having good tires and brakes. Masks keep infection rates down, and that is job one when dealing with a deadly new pathogen that we don’t fully understand.
Of course, masks are just the last line of defense against Coronavirus infection. A healthy immune system full of Vitamin D, proper distancing, proper weight, good diet, etc. are all equally important. But if all else fails, masks buy time and keep viral loads to a minimum.
So what happened in the U.S.? Why were we so late to the masked ball?
Here's a compilation of "experts" , The W.H.O., Dr Anthony Fauci, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, all telling us in March that masks were unnecessary and even harmful! First impressions matter, and we got off on the wrong foot. We currently have one of the highest infection rates in the world. The W.H.O., Dr. Fauci, and Dr. Adams cut our brake lines and gave us bald tires at a critical stage in the pandemic.
President Donald Trump blew this one. He should have overruled the experts. Recently, he and Fauci et al. have reversed course, and we are now belatedly on track to be fully masked.
#2. Does Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) work?
The effort to discredit HCQ may the biggest health hoax in history. Nearly 700,000 people have died globally and far more have permanent organ damage as of this writing. How many could have been spared if there hadn't been a coordinated and thus far successful attempt to prevent this cheap, available, safe, effective therapy from gaining traction? We'll never know, but the case needs to be adjudicated publicly. Instead, one side is being systematically blocked and censored.
Despite what you’ve been told, the science unequivocally supports early use of HCQ:
There are three possibilities:
One is that there may have been an early misunderstanding about HCQ. We have known since 2005 that HCQ is effective on SARS coronavirus in vitro (in a test tube). Yet most of the early HCQ studies were done with patients who were well beyond the viral stage of the illness. It was like studying the effectiveness of airbags by deploying them days after a car accident! And we know that zinc plays a crucial role with HCQ, yet almost none of the studies bothered to include it!
Another possibility is that HCQ is a direct threat to Big Pharma, which hopes to cash in on expensive newly patented therapies like Remdesivir, anti-bodies, and vaccines. As if by magic, very favorable things always manage to be amplified regarding these profitable options, and very damaging things are amplified about generic HCQ. The amplification NEVER goes the other way. And this imbalance goes all the way up the chain of command to government health officials around the world. It's like they are all paid spokesmen for Big Pharma!
And finally, there are the politics of HCQ. The moment President Donald Trump spoke hopefully about HCQ it became a political imperative for his opponents to stop this drug from ever being accepted. The earliest Western HCQ proponent was a French doctor named Didier Raoult. Success for Dr. Raoult and HCQ meant success for Trump, and that could not be allowed regardless of the collateral damage. Hit pieces like this one in The New York Times popped-up like mushrooms bad-mouthing Dr. Raoult. He was dubbed a "barking mad dangerous witch-doctor". Every subsequent proponent of HCQ has suffered a similar fate.
In the end, negative media reports on Hydroxychloroquine outnumber positive ones by orders of magnitude. The message is clear, and it has worked wonders at hurting Donald Trump's poll numbers and raising death rates around the world:
Source: Anonymous Twitter user @gummibear737
The following graph is from a lawsuit filed against the FDA by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS):
and finally, this very recent randomized study using Adjusted Deaths per Million, which shows HCQ countries have 79.1% lower deaths: (Hat tip -Twitter user @CovidAnalysis)
So what went wrong in the U.S. with HCQ? Like with masks, it starts with the most influential voice in the country, Dr. Anthony Fauci. And again he blew the call.
When the subject of HCQ first came up, Dr. Fauci pooh-poohed it saying he needed a time-consuming peer-reviewed double-blind study. After all, that is the gold standard in drug testing. But, does that make sense during a deadly pandemic with a centuries old class of medicines that have been proven safe, proven efficacious in vitro, and have proven clinical results against this very Coronavirus? Fauci had the burden of proof completely backwards! With no viable options and people dying, the burden of proof was on the skeptics.
Then Dr. Fauci and the NIH applied a completely different standard to a new medicine called Remdesivir. Here was a medicine that had no peer-reviewed double-blind study, no track record, no safety profile, and no history with Coronavirus, yet Fauci touted it as a "game changer". Unlike HCQ, there were billions of dollars to be made with Remdesivir. It later turned out that several of the scientists reviewing Remdesivir for the NIH had financial ties to Gilead Sciences, the holder of the Remdesivir patent!
Nevertheless, on March 28th the FDA reluctantly issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for HCQ. Next came a slew of negative late-stage studies. Almost all of them were done on hospitalized patients long past the viral stage of the illness and nearing death. And none of them included zinc. An antiviral like HCQ, even with zinc, cannot resuscitate patients with severe lung, brain, heart, and kidney damage!
What followed next was truly a "Theater-of-the-Absurd".
On May 22nd, the highly respected British publication, The Lancet, published a huge negative study on HCQ. It was so devastating that The W.H.O. immediately dropped all attempts to test the drug and recommended it not be used. The FDA followed suit shortly thereafter.
Except there's one small detail I skipped: The influential Lancet study was completely discredited and retracted! The data was entirely made-up! It was all fake! But that has not stopped The W.H.O, FDA, NIH, CDC, nor Dr. Fauci from proceeding with their campaign against HCQ. This all stinks to high heaven. Meanwhile, six thousand people die globally from Coronavirus every single day.
Here's what has happened in the U.S. since the FDA ended the EUA for HCQ:
The saddest piece of data in the U.S. is that the two states that make up about a third of all deaths, NY and NJ, totalling 48,725 dead as of 8/5/2020, took decisive action to make sure no one could possibly be saved by HCQ.
On March 3, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order that among other things strictly limited the use of HCQ:
No pharmacist shall dispense hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine except when written as prescribed for an FDA-approved indication; or as part of a state approved clinical trial related to COVID-19 for a patient who has tested positive for COVID-19, with such test result documented as part of the prescription. No other experimental or prophylactic use shall be permitted...
This effectively banned HCQ use in NY when it could have been most effective against the disease. Waiting for test results could mean a possible 14 day delay in treatment when patients would be well beyond the viral stage of the illness.
On March 9th, NJ Governor Phil Murphy also issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency, and by March 29th NJ had strict restrictions on prescribing HCQ:
All dispensing of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for treatment of COVID-19 shall be limited to prescriptions supported by a positive test result, which must be documented on the prescription.The reason for these limits was ostensibly to prevent Lupus and other Autoimmune patients from running out of HCQ. But those patients are not in danger of dying and have many treatment options. Coronavirus patients are in mortal danger and have no other options. This ensured no NJ or NY resident could get early outpatient treatment with HCQ when it was the only thing that could have saved them.
Here's the bottom line: The W.H.O, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Big Pharma, the media, and anti-Trumpers, slashed our seat belts, disabled our airbags, and made this pandemic much, much worse than it needed to be. To his credit, Donald Trump had the right instincts on HCQ, but was unable to overcome the forces against it.
HCQ is not the only cheap, available, and safe treatment being looked at for Coronavirus. Some others are Ivermectin, Artemisinin, Quinine, Quercetin, and Green Tea. All of these share one thing in common with HCQ - they are all zinc ionophores. Here's how it was explained to me: zinc ionophores facilitate the transport of zinc ions into cells. Zinc is particularly good at interfering with all sorts of mischief by cellular invaders. A useful analogy is this; the ionophore is the gun and zinc is the bullet. (H/T Dr. Zelenko) Doing tests on zinc ionophores without zinc is like testing guns without bullets.
(The countries in my HCQ graph were chosen from this study published in April, with one exception. Costa Rica's outbreak was late and therefore was not included, but they famously responded using the S. Korea model and have had dramatic results. Since I could only include ten countries before the graph got cluttered, I chose the ten with the most and least success.)
The pandemic presents a unique opportunity for comparing healthcare systems around the world. As it turns out, the healthcare systems that performed well were the ones that had a robust free market component, and the ones that did poorly were the most bureaucratically socialized ones. (Like with masks, I kept this mostly to European countries to minimize variables.)
I don't mean to pick on France, Italy, UK, Belgium, etc., but there’s a pattern. These countries, in addition to being late on masks and Hydroxychloroquine, also have the most highly socialized healthcare systems in the world. Ask yourself this, if you had a life-or-death shipping problem and needed a quick innovative solution, would you go to the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, or UPS? These socialized countries had only their post-offices to turn to.
I first stumbled on this correlation while studying economic freedom and death rates. Early in the pandemic I found a strong correlation between economically free countries and low CFRs, but the correlation faded as the pandemic progressed. What never changed were the outliers - free countries with very high CFRs. After looking into it, I found that these countries all had highly socialized healthcare systems with no significant free market components.
Ironically, The W.H.O., also wrong about masks and Hydroxychloroquine, ranks healthcare systems. Lo and behold, France and Italy take first and second place respectively!
To be clear, having some socialized healthcare is the norm around the world. Even in the U.S. we have tons of socialized medicine. In fact, if you take Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, and SCHIP together, they comprise the largest government healthcare program in the world. And yet our CFR is in the low range. That’s because we also have a robust free market in healthcare alongside our socialized system.
President Donald Trump again has the right instincts here. He's tried to increase free market healthcare in the U.S., but has been thwarted by both Republicans and Democrats in congress.
Conclusions - How to Survive Coronavirus in Three Easy Steps:
- Masks correlate with low infection rates. Wear a mask when in close quarters.
- HCQ correlates with low fatalities. Make sure your doctor understands HCQ, zinc, and zinc ionophores in general. [UPDATE: plus Ivermectin!]
- And free market healthcare correlates with low fatalities. You don’t want to be stuck in post-office healthcare when your life depends on it.
As noted above, there are plenty of herbal over-the-counter zinc ionophores like quercetin and green tea. And of course, zinc is readily available.
I wonder what would happen in the presidential race if one of the candidates pledged to make HCQ w/zinc over-the-counter? Many drugs, like ibuprofen (Advil) are OTC in low doses, but require a prescription for higher doses. Could that be done with time-tested drugs with proven safety records like HCQ and Ivermectin?
(One final note on why these analyses use Case Fatality Rates (CFRs) and not Fatalities per million population. Since these analyses compare treatments and outcomes (ie: HCQ & healthcare vs. deaths), only those that are treated are included. Using Fatalities per million population would introduce widely variable infection rates into the analysis and infection rates have nothing to do with treatments. Infection rates are also important, but they are a function of masks, distancing, culture, lifestyle, age, etc., which is why they were used in the mask analysis above. (original charts are based on data from www.ourworldindata.com))