An image shared on social media makes the claim that the “fake news” media fabricated the existence of a study on the effectiveness on the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19 in U.S. military veterans, ( here , here ). The image makes the further claim that Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and a prominent voice in the Trump administration during the COVID-19 pandemic, “rigged old charts”, implying that he fabricated the results.
The post reads, “Fake news pushed a ‘VA Study’ to say Hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work. THERE WAS NO STUDY. Fauci’s NIH rigged old charts!”.
The claim on social media is false as the study does exist. On April 21, Reuters reported that an analysis by U.S. researchers of Veterans Health Administration (VA) data had found that hydroxychloroquine provided no benefit and led to a potentially higher risk of death for coronavirus patients at U.S. veterans hospitals. The research, which has not yet been accepted for publication in a medical journal or peer reviewed, was not the result of a clinical trial. The study analyzed medical records from 368 men hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus infection at VA centers who died or were discharged by April 11. ( here ).
The analysis found that 28% of 97 patients given hydroxychloroquine along with standard care died, compared with a death rate of 11% for 158 patients who did not receive the drug. The death rate was 22% for the 113 patients given hydroxychloroquine plus the antibiotic azithromycin.
The claim on social media comes after hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug, was recommended by President Trump to treat COVID-19 though the treatment is still in testing phases. In an April 4 exclusive, Reuters reported that in mid-March, Trump personally pressed federal health officials to make malaria drugs available to treat the novel coronavirus, though they had been untested against COVID-19 ( here ).
Guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as of April 16 states that “Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are under investigation in clinical trials for pre-exposure or post-exposure prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and treatment of patients with mild, moderate, and severe COVID-19” ( here ).
As of April 2020, a safe, effective vaccine for the new coronavirus appears to still be more than a year away ( here ). More than 70 vaccine candidates are in development around the world, with at least five in preliminary testing in people.
Reuters recently fact-checked a claim about reports of a hydroxychloroquine study in Brazil that was halted after the death of 11 participants ( here ).
False: A study on hydroxychloroquine treatment for U.S. veterans with COVID-19 does exist, although it has yet to be peer-reviewed. It found that the anti-malaria drug showed no benefit and could lead to a higher rate of deaths in coronavirus patients.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact checking work here .
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.