A CONTROVERSIAL drug, hailed by US President Donald Trump as a “game changer” in the fight against COVID-19, has come under the community’s spotlight after a webinar hosted by two Sydney shules endorsed it.
In an online event late last month titled “COVID-19 treatment, have we found it?”, Chabad North Shore and Chabad Bondi hosted New York Jewish doctor Vladimir Zelenko, who was one of the first to promote the use of hydroxychloroquine.
Used to treat malaria and certain auto-immune conditions, there are claims hydroxychloroquine, in combination with other medications, is a potential cure or preventive for coronavirus.
Yale epidemiology professor Harvey Risch argues that when “given very early in the course of illness, before the virus has had time to multiply beyond control, it has shown to be highly effective”, while Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have both taken and promoted its use.
However, health authorities in Australia and abroad have warned against it, citing serious risks to patients including potentially sudden heart attacks, eye damage and severe depletion of blood sugar.
Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration “strongly discourages the use of hydroxychloroquine outside of its current indications at this time”.
Following the webinar, Chabad Bondi’s Rabbi Yehoram Ulman told The AJN, “Jewish law (halachah) and medical ethics would mandate medical professionals to utilise every tool they have in their arsenal to wipe out this scourge.”
He added, “I am not aware of even a single example of someone experiencing a significant adverse reaction to the medication [when taken to treat COVID-19], but I can name many who have recovered immediately upon taking the medication.”
Associate Professor Tom Gottlieb, head of infectious diseases at Concord Hospital, told The AJN, “There is evidence that taking these medications can cause considerable harm and even death in some patients, especially those with pre-existing cardiac conditions. The promotion of these drugs for COVID-19, outside of carefully monitored clinical trials, is both without merit and irresponsible.”
Jewish Emergency Management Plan (JEMP) medical sub-committee chairman Richard Glass told The AJN, “We cannot stress strongly enough that the overwhelming weight of research and specialist medical opinion in Australia and throughout the western world, is that such claims regarding hydroxychloroquine are unproven.”