Henry Ford hydroxychloroquine study abandoned after failing to find enough willing test subjects


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Being a journalist covering misinformation in the era of President Donald Trump is an endless task. By the time you debunk one conspiracy, Trump supporters have already moved onto a new one. This goes on and on to the point where it's hard to really even remember past conspiracy theories du jour, even ones that happened just a few months ago and completely dominated the headlines at the time.

Take hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug that Trump repeatedly touted as a cure for COVID-19. When Trump started peddling it as the pandemic hit in the spring, we would get all sorts of emails from his supporters asking things like, "How many people died because Gov. Gretchen Whitmer banned the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients?"

The problem was that hydroxychloroquine was never proven to be a cure for COVID-19. So Detroit's Henry Ford Health System did what any scientists worth their salt would do: they set up a randomized, double-blind study to see if it would work, becoming one of the first and largest studies of the drug. The WHIP COVID-19 clinical trial was to enlist 3,000 health care workers, first responders, or other frontline workers to determine whether taking the drug would prevent COVID-19, something Trump even claimed to have done.

But it turns out the high-profile study was never completed. According to Bridge Michigan, Henry Ford quietly abandoned the study just before Christmas after finding only 624 people willing to sign up.

The drug hit a series of snags that likely made it hard to find willing test subjects. In July, the World Health Organization halted a large study after finding the drug did not reduce mortality rates. Earlier studies by others were even halted after patients were found to be more likely to suffer cardiac side effects on the drug, and the FDA revoked its emergency use authorization for the drug.

Henry Ford muddied the waters by releasing the results of a similar study in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases in July, which found that the drug lowered the death rate in patients. Trump claimed on Twitter that the study was proof "The Dems disparaged it for political reasons (me!)," and his followers followed suit. But that study was not randomized and double-blind, meaning that Henry Ford's doctors carefully selected who they gave the drugs to, causing some scientists to warn that it could have skewed the results. Even Dr. Anthony Fauci called the study "flawed." In response, Henry Ford officials said they were no longer providing comment to the media regarding its studies of the drug.

In the months since then, Henry Ford just dropped the issue entirely.

We don't get any emails from Trump supporters about hydroxychloroquine anymore, and haven't for some time. By now, they've moved onto QAnon, alleged election fraud, and attempted insurrection.

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