A clip from a press conference by a group of American doctors calling themselves “America’s Frontline Doctors,” starring Dr Stella Immanuel, a self-described primary care physician in Houston, Texas, sparked a ruckus after it was posted online by Breitbart news before it was removed by Twitter on Monday.
In the video, which was retweeted by US President Donald Trump and many conservative pundits, Immanuel said that she first used the drug to treat malaria patients in Nigeria, where she received her medical training, but has now been successfully using the medicine to treat Covid-19 patients in Texas and as a prophylaxis. There is no evidence she ever worked in Nigeria, although she attended University of Calabar medical school in the 80s.
Immanuel claimed that she has treated over 350 coronavirus-stricken patients so far, including those with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma as well as elderly people – and that not a single one of her patients had died. However, she is known to be a pediatrician and not working at any public hospital.
An assortment of studies have been carried out recently to determine whether HCQ could be helpful in treating the disease – with varying results. The latest research, however, appeared to dampen hopes that hydroxychloroquine might become the long-sought-after cure. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) suspended clinical trials of the drug for the second time, citing its alleged ineffectiveness, while a newly-released German study found that chloroquine did not inhibit the spread of the disease in human lung cells.
Immanuel, however, appeared to argue that surveys portraying the drug as useless at best, and dangerous at worst, are a Big Pharma fraud.While the HCQ has been promoted by Trump, who said in May that he had been taking the drug “every day”as a prophylactic, the treatment is not FDA-approved for use outside of the hospital setting for patients who already have Covid-19 due to “risk of heart rhythm problems.”
Doctors who are hesitant to prescribe the drug, she argued, are no better than “the good Nazi… that watched Jews get killed and… did not speak up.” Immanuel said that she’s been bombarded by “all kinds of threats”but added that she won’t give in to the pressure.
“You can report me to the bots, you can kill me, you can do whatever, but I’m not going to let Americans die, ” she said.
While the doctor’s spirited tirade has drawn praise from many Trump supporters, skeptics have questioned her medical credentials and those of the group she represents. Some pointed out that the website for “America’s Frontline Doctors” appears to have been launched less than two weeks ago.
Others took issue with the fact that Immanuel is a minister in the “Fire Power Ministries with Dr Stella Immanuel,” which is apparently at the same place where her medical center is located.
Shortly after her fierce speech went viral scoring hundreds of thousands of views, Immanuel tweeted that her Facebook page and videos had been removed.
Since the start of the pandemic big US-based social media platforms have been forcefully removing all Covid-19 content that they deem to contain misinformation about the disease. While few people criticize the fight against false information itself, its implementation has been far from perfect. Some accurate content got axed while obviously unhinged conspiracy theories remained untouched by the digital censorship.
Adding fuel to the fire is the reality that Covid-19 and ways to fight it has become a highly politicized issue in the US.
* with reports from RT