In this episode, I am speaking with Matthew Crawford who is a statistician. We will talk about the science on hydroxychloroquine and the scandals that have influenced our current approach to the drug.
Table of Contents
In this podcast, Matthew and I discuss:
- How politics has influenced the world’s response to hydroxychloroquine
- The shocking reality about hydroxychloroquine research
- How the economy plays a role in research
- The Lancet scandal – and what it means to you!
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Listen outside iTunes
Ari: Hello, this is Ari welcome back to the Energy Blueprint podcast. I have a very interesting and unique guest for you today, his name is Matthew Crawford and he is an applied statistician. Unlike the typical health science geek or functional medicine doctor that I have on this show normally, right now I’m talking to a statistics and maths guy. The reason why is because I saw several posts of his related to what’s going on and the research around COVID and his statistical and mathematical analyses of things. He’s really dug deep on a particular thread of COVID science around hydroxychloroquine. I found this to be just a fascinating line of discussion.
Now I want to get something out of the way before we get into this and maybe we can touch on this, Matthew as we get into it but one of the really unfortunate things that’s gone on with COVID is the way that COVID science has been highly highly politicized. We have certain narratives of COVID science on the left and certain narratives on the right and there isn’t much overlap of shared reality. Unfortunately, hydroxychloroquine maybe is the pinnacle of that because we had Donald Trump, the much much reviled Donald Trump by about half of the population in the US basically came out in support of hydroxychloroquine and so the political left had an immediate negative reaction to hydroxychloroquine. Then went on a tear of saying how the science doesn’t support it and it’s all nonsense.
The media frenzy on hydroxychloroquine
I will say that I personally actually never, I don’t even think once posted anything or put out any information or any commentary or any thoughts at all on hydroxychloroquine because I myself just saw so much mixed science on it that I didn’t know what to think. I definitely saw some studies that said it had no effect or even negative effects, some studies showing positive effects and doctors swearing that it’s really effective. We also have this whole scandal of the Lancet study and I think some other things of actual scientific fraud that we know was committed with a specific intention to try to delegitimize hydroxychloroquine.
Then there’s this whole thing about the emergency use authorization of the vaccines being dependent upon, there being no other available treatment and so then you can very easily get into conspiratorial theories around why there was scientific fraud being committed to delegitimize the treatment that was available to claim that it doesn’t work to help facilitate emergency use authorization of vaccine. None of that’s necessarily proven, I hope maybe you can comment on this. I don’t know what all your thoughts are on it but I just want to make it clear to all the listeners.
I have no political agenda here, I don’t care if you use hydroxychloroquine or don’t use hydroxychloroquine. My goal here is to help understand this phenomenon of what went down around hydroxychloroquine. Matthew Crawford seems to be the guy who has dug into this topic may be deeper than just about anybody else. I’m super excited to talk with him. I think this is going to be a really enlightening discussion. Matthew, why don’t you tell us first of all how you got interested as a math guy, as a statistics guy, how you got sucked down the rabbit trail of COVID science and hydroxychloroquine.
Matthew Crawford: Yes. Thanks, Ari. I’ll be honest at this point. Yes, it’s a year later, in fact, Donald Trump first mentioned hydroxychloroquine on March 19th of 2020 so we’re just over a year after that anniversary. I watched that. I heard President mention drug and the same day that I heard about it there were already people on the news calling it snake oil. It seemed like such– I know that we’re in the middle of this crazy Trump partisan period of politics in which people just take sides so hard but it seemed beyond that. You don’t take that into medicine. You don’t take that into certain areas of life and watching that, it piqued my curiosity. I started doing just a little bit of reading and kept up with the studies.
In the meantime, I’ve had a career in education that’s been somewhat global. Just to tell you a little bit about it, I helped build a large online school. It’s a website that has 700,000 people registered on it. We had many thousands of students over the years, and some of them I taught in person also. I taught math students from all over the world, people who were going to often elite universities who would have research careers, but many doctors. A number of those doctors who are now late 20s, early 30s, they would contact me and say, “Oh, my hospital,” I have a former student at Yale-New Haven and he was like, “Yes, we’re using hydroxychloroquine, the data looks pretty good.”
He showed me the data. Then I had two former students from India, one of whom worked for the ICMR, Indian Council of Medical Research. They were like, “Yes, we’re beginning to push this out.” That was probably early April that I heard from several doctors around the world. It alarmed me that the press was taking such a hard stance against it. In the meantime, I would read up articles and I would do a little bit extra leg of research. For instance, the day after Trump spoke about hydroxychloroquine, there were all these news articles saying, “Oh, now because Trump spoke about it, there’s the shortage of hydroxychloroquine,” meaning that lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients are not able to get it for their conditions.
I looked into this, and I found out that the hospitals had upped their orders during early March to mid-March. They doubled their hydroxychloroquine orders and quadrupled their chloroquine the related drug that doesn’t have the hydroxyl group. They just ordered so much of it that there was a very brief period, very brief, during which there were a few people unable to get it but though most people get these prescriptions weeks in advance, they have a supply, and it’s something that stays in the bloodstream for a very long time. If you go one or two days without taking your medication, it’s not as if it stops really working for you. You just have a slightly 3% or 4% lower blood serum level of this drug.
When I looked at that, I thought, “Wow, this is really a media campaign.” That just made me thirst to follow the story. I contacted more doctors and contacted researchers and started to keep my own statistics and separate them out in categorical ways. Studies would come out and there would be early treatment studies and late treatment studies but in particular, what I noticed that alarmed me was that the people who were handling the US treatment panel that Pence run, they did not seem to care about collecting the evidence and data. There was so much focus like 80 something percent of the budget was vaccines from the get-go.
Here we have the simple possibility that researchers it turns out were looking at for years, researchers all over the world expected this drug to be the most likely to have an impact in the case of another coronavirus epidemic.
Ari: That’s because of the previous SARS epidemic in the early 2000s, hydroxychloroquine was identified as an effective drug. Is that accurate?
Matthew: Yes, there were several researchers [unintelligible] Vincent and some others who too did in-vitro testing and found that it had an effect. I would find articles– There was an Italian doctor, when the hospitals were overflowing there, went out and started doing early treatment, and there was an article on Time about him in March. The fact that this data wasn’t being collected and that it was being dismissed as anecdotal. What do you do with anecdotal data?
Well, you do a study. You put it together, you see what it looks like. I started putting that data together just on my own and I didn’t do that complete of a job at first because I just assumed that other people were doing it. Like who were the adults in the room? Who’s keeping track of all this research? Fortunately, there is somebody who did start keeping very good tabs on at least the published and the pre-published research. I call them Team COVID Analysis. They’re an anonymous group that runs a website called c19study.com. I don’t know if you’ve been there to take a look. They run now several companion websites. They’re obviously a professional researcher, and they don’t want anyone to know who they are.
Ari: I wouldn’t either. I’m sure [unintelligible] assassinated or something.
Matthew: It’s very telling that this professional researcher decided to remain anonymous collecting this data. Every time I looked a little bit deeper, it became a more interesting story. I started keeping notes. Now I have like 500 pages of notes from various studies and in my own spreadsheets, putting together categorically the different studies.
The Lancet scandal
Ari: Where did all of this take you? What were some of the most key important layers that you started to uncover in all of this? Also, I really want to get your input on this whole issue of scientific fraud issue. Why did that scientific fraud take place in your view? Maybe you can describe it for people who are unaware of what actually took place there.
Matthew: Sure. It’s startling how much scientific fraud we are probably witnessing right now during this pandemic. I have a list of dozens and dozens of papers that I believe are fraudulent, probably about 40 that we now know are fraudulent on some level or another, if not completely fabricated. The biggest one is the Surgisphere. Before we started, even you mentioned that you brought that one up. The interesting thing about that one is it is still being cited by researchers.
Ari: To be clear for listeners, that study was retracted. It’s not just like your opinion or my opinion that it was fraudulent. It was a well-known scandal. This is not the correct term, but they were essentially convicted of it being truly fraudulent and the study was retracted is that [crosstalk]?
Matthew: Sadly, there is no “conviction” even at this point. I’ll give a synopsis of this. The study was retracted. There’s never been any real admission of wrongdoing.
Matthew: It’s just, oh, we can’t verify the database. Therefore, the Lancet has pushed the authors to retract or something like that. It’s a complete joke. But here’s the synopsis. Surgisphere was a corporation that was founded in, I think, 2008. It was a young doctor. He sounds like a pretty narcissistic fellow. He was one of those who kept leaping through school faster, going to college at an early age, going to medical school early. Always very image-focused. At the point at which he became a doctor, he was no longer the whiz kid. It looks like he was not particularly good at hand in his responsibilities.
He was always reaching for other things to do in order to make more money already in his late 20s he wanted to perhaps make more money. He started this company and started to push textbooks. I’ve written a couple of myself. It’s a very difficult thing to do if you’re also a doctor running a full-time job. Writing a textbook is a whole lot of work. But on Amazon, it looked like there were fake reviews for these textbooks. He was trying to these things push in. So you have these five-star reviews, and then these one and two-star reviews, the pan. Apparently, he kept the corporation around anyway. Maybe he got a few textbook sales, but it never really did anything else until right around the time the pandemic began.
In early 2020 the corporation started doing other things. It was pushing like a testing device that they claimed would test you for SARS or COVID or something like that, but it was probably just a joke. They have this mortality calculator. Some people put in numbers and would find things like a 23-year-old nonsmoker has a 3% chance of dying out, or I don’t remember exactly the calculations on that, but hastily put together garbage tools that oddly were being pushed. The moment they came into existence, they were being pushed by several health organizations around the world.
That itself is kind of telling. What kind of relationship did this person have? Well, around that time, it was a one-man band until around that time. He started by roping other people in; I think a cousin of his, who was at a university and then through him [unintelligible 00:14:27], I believe, is his name. Who was himself a journal editor, had affiliations with Harvard, and worked at a hospital in Boston. They got an adult model to pose as the company’s public image. I don’t know public sales, had or HR, or something like that. Anyway, they got a team of six people together. One of them was a science fiction author. [chuckles] they started to put out research claiming they have this wonderful database that allowed them to collect information from all over the world that was powered by machine learning, and this is kind of an interesting point we’ll get to that but-
Ari: How the hell did something like this get published in the Lancet, which is one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world?
Matthew: Yes, it really looks to me like there was an organized effort to slip it in the door. This group had never published research their very first paper that went into preprint was actually on ivermectin. People don’t actually know that Surgisphere sphered into that territory as well. They put up a study that said, “Hey, it helps like 80% of the patients,” then they retracted it, saying, “Oh, we think the data was messed up somehow.” or something like that. They may have even taken a poke at the ivermectin story as well as the hydroxychloroquine story.
They published one that was in their wheelhouse. I don’t know if it was fabricated for sure; I’ve never really looked hard into the paper. But it was the Harvard researcher and Sapan Desai who started Surgisphere. Both of them has a specialty in cardiology. They published that, I think, the New England Journal of Medicine, and then boom, they have to have a one-paper publication. Then suddenly, they have this paper with 671 hospitals around the world and six comments. All six populated continents. It’s unrealistic, to begin with. Because getting that much data going through the regulatory processes of dealing with that many countries and hospital regulations, it’s absurd. You don’t see that in research. I don’t know how many papers I’ve read 5000. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that even claimed that. They were able to put this together very very quickly. It was a smash hit in the Lancet, and it was just it was immediately pushed by people. There’s a guy named Eric Feigl-Ding who was a visiting nutritionist at Harvard but claiming Harvard credentials on his Twitter trying to gain a following just talking about the pandemic like he’s an all-star epidemiologist and [inaudible]. Yes.
Ari: He is from China, isn’t he?
Matthew: I don’t know. I don’t think so. I was thinking maybe he was Vietnamese-American. I really don’t know.
Ari: Maybe [inaudible] I’m thinking of some guy who’s actually being investigated for his ties to the Chinese government and how he’s infiltrated Harvard and some [crosstalk].
Matthew: I think this is a different person. Yes, there are a number of these stories, unfortunately.
Matthew: What I noticed was the morning the study came out in the Lancet. This Eric Feigl-Ding character already had like a 21 post tweet storm going through the data talking about how this is the death knell for hydroxychloroquine. This is late May. I looked at the paper. I thought, “Wow, like just on the face, none of it seemed like reality. Like this could not exist.” Already I talked to many doctors and researchers, probably 30, 40, 50 at that point in time, who were like, “Yes, we’re seeing it work well on our patients,” so I see this come out and say, “40% increase chance of death,” and that shocked me, so I looked deeper into the data. You look line by line, and the data looks impossibly low invariance. For instance, you look at the line like smokers. You’ve traveled to a number of countries. I noticed you live in Costa Rica, is that right?
Matthew: You go from country to country, and the percentage of smokers is not the same. Everywhere in the world, it’s a different culture, you don’t expect the variance to be 9.2% to 10.2%
Matthew: From continent to continent, you never ever see that in a medical research paper. You look line to line and through the medical stats. It looks like that and in the treatment stats too. What proportion of the people who are given hydroxychloroquine were also given a macrolide? It’s almost uniform. It looks like you have a college kid and make up numbers, and they didn’t really know how to throw something into a random number generator or study what the relationships were between the comments. Because of that all the data it just looks fake on the face. That night I went on a walk with my wife. She’s a biochemist, and she does research that gets into the medical realm of cancer and all that.
I said, “I think this paper is fake.” It shocked her for me to say that, so why do you think so? I explained the details that I saw that was on day one, and then researchers over the next 10 days just started to take this paper apart. There was what I saw, and then there were other things too. Like the number of patients reported from the hospitals that they had in their databases at that time was greater than the number of actual COVID patients that there’d been. They said, “Oh, we miscoded one hospital and changed that data.” It was an overwhelming landslide of details in this paper that look clearly fabricated. Then you have the retraction 10 days later, but in the meantime, the WHO had pressured nations around the world to stop using it.
Ari: Based on that paper.
Matthew: Based on that paper. It’s still being cited, even almost hit 10 months after the retraction.
Ari: Were there other papers like this as well, other fraudulent papers on hydroxychloroquine that were published in Peer Review Journal that were influential?
Matthew: I think so there are a lot of problematic papers and they’re problematic in ways that may or may not be intentional. We may never prove they’re intentional. Also, the problems with them are more subtle. It’s tougher to force somebody to pull them down and I’ll give an example. There’s one that’s authored by a [unintelligible 00:21:05] out of Brazil. In this paper, one problem that I noticed immediately was they recruited 12% of the patients out of the ICU. People who were very close to death already to be part of the study. That’s engineering, a one-to-one ratio.
You take people who are 10 minutes from death, give half of them a medication. Half of them not, you still have the same percentage die. Here was the big problem with the paper is that nearly 40% of the control group had actually previously been treated within 24 or 48 hours with hydroxychloroquine, or azithromycin which is the macrolide that was being prescribed with it. It really looks like they were intentionally trying to engineer a one-to-one ratio.
The study still showed a slight benefit for those who receive hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin but it wasn’t statistically significant. Not being statistically significant the press has been trained to say, fail to show benefit, as opposed to wasn’t highly powered enough, didn’t have enough patients to reach statistical significance. That’s another example.
Ari: I’ll mention one other problem that I saw in at least one study and I’ve heard other people mentioned that this is something they’ve seen in other studies as well. I saw a study very early on, maybe back in March, right when things were starting of Bill Gates’ Gates Foundation study, it was funded by the Gates Foundation being done on hydroxychloroquine. Which is unusual in and of itself because they’re obviously very focused on vaccines and if anything, hydroxychloroquine due to that emergency use authorization being dependent on the lack of availability of other treatments, it’s bizarre for someone who’s trying to push the vaccines as the solution, to be funding research on hydroxychloroquine.
Here’s the rub, the placebo “that they gave” and placebo is supposed to be an inert substance that is not bioactive. It doesn’t have biological effects. Instead of using a placebo-like sugar pill or some other inert substance, they use vitamin C. Why the hell would you use vitamin C as your placebo? It’s not a placebo. It’s not biologically inert. The definition of a vitamin is, first of all, a nutrient that is needed by the body for normal function. Second of all, they’re choosing a vitamin that is specifically known to have immune-boosting effects and to have health benefits and anti-viral effects.
Matthew: Not only that there was an RCT out of China in which the number of patients who were given a high-dose intravenous vitamin C had 53% chance of reduced death. Clearly not a good placebo to choose. This never happens in science.
Ari: Science 101. There’s really no argument that this could possibly be ignorance. No one with a brain is ignorant that vitamin C has a role in the human body and has never heard about its role in immune health. You just cannot argue that the reason that they did that is due to ignorance. The question is what was the reason if it wasn’t ignorance and why were they funding this study using on hydroxychloroquine using vitamin C as a placebo and to take this more broad, why was this Surgisphere study this published in the Lancet? Why does it seem that there are some people with an intention to make hydroxychloroquine look ineffective? What is your best guess as to why that is there or why that happened?
Matthew: My best guest goes really, really deep. I think probably beyond the scope of this conversation, I think that ultimately at the base source of all, this is the weakening of the US dollar. I think that so many things are going to change over the next 20 years that it is pushing at the foundations of anything that might, where you have a corporate corruption, interplay with government corruption. I think that there’s a lot of incentives to push anything that allows the whole world to accept the expansion of dollar supply without crying foul.
That’s my honest core belief. I say this as somebody who’s spent time trading bonds on Wall Street and time studying the monetary system. I think that we’re in the age of semi-economic collapse. The good news is I think that we’re actually going to come out of it better, but that’s another story.
Ari: [unintelligible 00:26:23] hydroxychloroquine and why people have a vested interest in proving it doesn’t work.
Matthew: I think you have a lot of aligned interests. There is this whole government financing story that may ultimately require a pandemic emergency in order to spend a whole bunch of money, trillions of dollars, and put that into the bank and so a lot of it went into the banking system. Aside from that, it’s easy to rope in a lot of the pharmaceutical companies with big multi-billion dollar vaccine contracts, even if their vaccine doesn’t end up being the one that’s chosen they still had all this money to feed their research machines. Then you have potentially somebody like Gilead, who at some point last year, they had sold two and a half billion dollars of Remdesivir. [crosstalk]
Ari: There was a thing around that whereas they were making hydroxychloroquine look ineffective, they were promoting Remdesivir as big wonder drug. Then as far as what I saw the research came out, showing Remdesivir doesn’t work.
Matthew: Actually, I think the research is mildly positive. I’ve looked at about 12 studies together and they are mostly barely on the positive side, but there is enough data at this point that it looks statistically significant. They also weren’t using it early enough, I think. If you’re going to have an antiviral effect, you should use it earlier. It may wind up having 20%, 30%, 40% effect. I’m not a real expert on that one though. It’s easy to throw each company a bone of a few billion dollars at a time and get them to play a game, I think.
Ultimately, it’s a conspiracy theory. We can’t know. There’s no smoking gun. What we can do is look at all the shenanigans around it.
Here’s a really, really interesting one. I wrote an article about this on Substack. I’ve moved by writing in the last few weeks to a Substack called Rounding The Earth. There was an interesting media game that we know was being played. I found enough documentation for it, which is that researchers all over the world prior to March 19th, 2020 we’re talking about hydroxychloroquine first.
There were more than a dozen rationale papers written. Some of them as far back as like 2004, ’05, ’06. Researchers, Vincent [unintelligible], and then Dr. Didier Raoult in France who previously used hydroxychloroquine to solve two diseases. All of them believed, “Hey, next coronavirus outbreak, this is the first thing off the shelf that we should test.” Right at the beginning of the pandemic, more papers were written suggesting this. In fact, there was only one early rationale paper that excluded it and that’s the one with Anthony Fauci’s name on it. That’s the only one.
Why wasn’t the press talking about it at all? If all these researchers, there were dozens of trials being planned, and in fact, the University of Minnesota where that vitamin C false placebo paper was published, they’ve actually done three RCTs. They are all with false placebos. I’ll talk about that in a moment, but they announced their first trial on March 17th and the press didn’t cover it. A guy named, Dr. James Todaro, who published his own 20 page summary of the research to date, and the fact that it was being used in China and in South Korea and other countries, we’re starting to see some use and talk about it, and Google censored his document. It was a Google doc. On March 18th, the day before Trump spoke, it’s like they knew that people were going to be googling for this and looking for information. There was a dearth of information because not one major media outlet had mentioned it. Even though there were already studies going on in France, nobody was mentioning it and they censored information that was mentioning it. It looks like a conspiracy of silence and a conspiracy of censorship.
Behind the scenes on why France removed hydroxychloroquine from the OTC medicine list
Ari: Yes, [unintelligible] something. I didn’t look into this in-depth, I’m curious if you did, but I remember hearing something about in France, where that doctor, his name is Didier Raoult. In France, I think they removed hydroxychloroquine from the market or something. They made it impossible to get in like January of 2020, something along those lines. You know, anything about that?
Matthew: Yeah, that’s its own deep story. You asked me, “Why as I started looking into these stories?” Because as I went deeper into the details, I talked to researchers in different countries who would point me toward the good information. Here’s what I got pointed toward in France. Agnes Buzyn started the process of taking hydroxychloroquine away from the over-the-counter.
It was an OTC medicine in France for decades. You’d just go to the pharmacy and buy it anytime you wanted. That process started in October of 2019, I think it was late October, and then by January, it was taken off the OTC list after the paperwork went through. Well, it turns out Agnes Buzyn is married to the guy who was the head of Inserm until sometime last year. His name is, Yves Levy, I think?
Ari: Yes, I already said the head of-
Matthew: Oh, she was the minister of health. The minister of health in France was married to the head of Inserm, which is like their NIH.
Ari: -okay, got it.
Matthew: Here’s what he did. From 2014 to 2020, who was the head of Inserm, and he was the one, early in his career, who shepherded China’s first level four biosafety hazard lab. They didn’t have one in mainland China. There were two in Taiwan, but nobody wanted to give China that technology. But the French research institutes went over there and helped them build it.
If the pandemic really started in September, and as our satellite footage indicates, their hospitals had a record month in September of 2019, so that’s probably when they really saw their explosion of cases, who would know about this? It would be the minister of health, married to the person who shepherded in this lab in China that was studying these coronaviruses in Wuhan, through Wuhan Institute of Virology. She probably knew. She started this process in October of 2019, looked very suspicious.
In the meantime, when Dr. Raoult started doing his research, he did so without contacting Inserm it’s like he had an instinct that they would try to shut them down, and they did. They did for a little while. They actually told them, “You can no longer give patients hydroxychloroquine.” But I think his research institute successfully fought that. It looks like there’s a lot of political inside game going on.
Ari: With what end goal politically? What I see is what I mentioned before, which is that there seems to be a very obvious possibility of using fraudulent science or using other methods to suppress the information that hydroxychloroquine is effective. That has a very clear end game of, again, this emergency use authorization for getting the vaccines out there, so there seems to be a huge and very obvious financial incentive for that. I know you mentioned something else. It sounds like a very deep story around the whole monetary system and changes around that, but is there something else that’s maybe more obvious in direct line beyond the vaccine?
Does the economy have anything to do with the current pandemic?
Matthew: There are people who point to the vaccines, and it’s a convenient place to point. I understand why people would have that hypothesis. Call it conspiracy theory or whatever, it’s a responsible hypothesis to consider, but I think this is larger than that. I think that’s how you get the pharmaceutical companies to play along, and the vaccine may be a tool for just keeping the whole story going.
It would not shock me if this story just continues, if the whole pandemic continues to play out for years into the future, while governments do their best to control people. They’ve brought them all home, right? Hardly anybody is away from their home country around the world. 140,000 people in a very small country, New Zealand, went home. Lots of Americans from around the world went home. They are reorganizing the world, I think.
I think it’s because the dollar’s weak, and because there’s no replacement for what that power represents in the world. You get the vaccines in and now you can have a story, oh, you had viral virus escape, right. Leaky virus, and they can say, “Oh, we need to update the vaccines, and require people to get more every six months or a year or something like that.” You can’t travel, maybe, we don’t know how that passport system is going to turn out.
Ari: To be frank, I’m a bit surprised that you’re brushing off is too strong of a word, that you’re pushing aside that theory so easily, because of exactly what you were just getting at. I know a bit about business. I’ve been studying it for six or seven years now, as I’ve been trying to learn the art of business, as I’m trying to teach people about health science, and even I know enough, as a pretty mediocre businessman, I know enough to see that this whole model of what they’re doing with the vaccines is basically the best business model ever conceived by anybody.
You get to have the entire world’s population as your customer. You get to have recurring revenue from repeat orders, basically, of people needing to get their new updated vaccines every few months.
Matthew: Oh, it’s a very good business model. Sounds good a business model as printing money.
Ari: You have zero liability because nobody can sue you for any of the harms of your product.
Matthew: Yes, and the fact that Pfizer has been going to Central or South America and saying, “Put up your military bases as collateral, for these potential lawsuits that come out.” And understand, I’m not pushing off this theory. I do think that that absolutely, it certainly appears that part of the point of burying the hydroxychloroquine story and ivermectin too, I believe, is in order to justify the vaccines. I think that’s most likely true. I’ll hypothesize that, I’ll talk about it. I just think that there’s an even larger game at play. What’s a better business model than an annual multi-billion dollar vaccine plan? Well, it’s printing money into perpetuity.
What the current science tells us on hydroxychloroquine
Ari: Yes. Well, I don’t have the depth of expertise and knowledge around financial matters to even necessarily understand the full scope of where you’re going with that, but it sounds very interesting. So let’s go back to hydroxychloroquine. Sum up the evidence for me at this point, everything that’s known, all the studies that have been done on hydroxychloroquine, all the studies that got published, maybe got retracted, all the ones that looked like good research, all the ones that are flawed. Take me through this full body of research and what is the picture that it paints? Is hydroxychloroquine effective, ineffective, harmful? What’s the deal?
Matthew: Okay, I’ll see if I can go through this frame by frame in two or three minutes. As far as I understand, there’s nearly 250 published papers. I think I’ve personally read 150 of them. When you look at those, it’s around 200,000 patients at this point, and a few of those may be in pre-print, I don’t have an exact number there, but 200,000 patients is a lot. That’s a lot of data.
You look at the big picture, about 80% of these studies look positive for hydroxychloroquine. Some of them are too small to be statistically significant on their own, but you begin grouping the data and aggregating, they’re fairly huge. That’s what meta stats are for. The effect size is clearly relatively large and statistically significant enough that it’s one in hundreds of quadrillions that this could happen by random chance. That’s what a P-value is. One in hundreds of quadrillions. I’ve never even seen a P-value like that in medical research anywhere ever. Huge body of evidence.
People say, “Oh, RCTs, RCT is the gold standard.” Which really isn’t true. Historically, they’ve looked like observational data. Even if you want to focus on the RCTs, they look actually representative of the larger body of research. The distribution of results within them looks almost the same, but the better evidence is to say, “What are the early treatment studies saying?” Because if an antiviral
is going to work, it’s going to work best during the first five days of having the virus. When you focus down on those I don’t know how many it is, 40, 50 studies, those look even better. In fact, there’s not one early treatment study in which hydroxychloroquine was outperformed by the control group, not a single one. It’s entirely uniform. RCT is entirely uniform. Yes, it’s overwhelming.
You begin to include the studies that include azithromycin and zinc, and those look even better. The effect sizes are actually huge. There’s a problem with the data where the effect sizes are actually muted and most people don’t know this. Even a lot of statisticians don’t know this, there’s something called the Simpson’s paradox. The Simpson’s paradox in data, it can fool you. It can make you think that something looks worse than it was.
I’ll give you an example of this and I’ll try to use simple numbers. Oh God, I should have pulled up the spreadsheet before we started talking because this is a really interesting piece that even I would bet 98% of medical researchers wouldn’t even know what I’m talking about when I start to talk about.
Ari: I’ve never heard of the effect that you’re talking about. I’ve taken quite a few graduate-level statistics courses.
Matthew: It’s within the realm of conditional statistics and probability. I’ll give a fake example. Let’s say that Albert Pujols holds bats 400 in night games, but only 300 in day games. Let’s say there’s some guy who’s about 10 points behind him, 10 bats, 290 in day games and 390 at night games, but they both do better at night, but the person who gets to play more night games is going to have the better statistical average. If it’s the Cardinals versus the Cubs and the Cubs who didn’t have lights in their stadium for years just play day games, then that person’s going to be dragged down to the lower batting average. The person with the lower batting average during the day and during night games, by playing more night games might actually look like the better batter.
If they played the only night games, they’d bat 390. If the other batter, who’s better, played only day games, they’d bat 300. You wind up with a reversing of effects because of this. I apologize, this is going to take a moment, but it’s important for people to hear this and understand this because the effect is so large. What could look like a 40% or 50% effect size, could actually be a greater than 90% effect size.
Just for the sake of argument, I’m going to talk about three different hospitals and give them the same patient population, 1,000 patients. In hospital one, hydroxychloroquine is immediately given to everybody who comes in the door, and 90 of those 1,000 patients die. At hospital two, it’s only used for severe cases. What do they call this? Compassionate care. It’s only used when the case has reached severity, meaning it’s only used on 600 of the patients, and 180 of those patients die. Twice as many die in the second hospital. Third hospital, nobody’s given hydroxychloroquine at all and 230 of them die, 23%. Everybody gets HCQ 9% mixed. Only severe cases 18%. Nobody gets hydroxychloroquine 23%. It sounds like hydroxychloroquine does great. 61% fewer deaths
However, if you throw these three hospitals into one study, the hydroxychloroquine group dies more often than those who did not receive hydroxychloroquine 16.9% to 16.4%. You can go back and run the numbers later to be sure right about this. Here’s what happens. Those 400 people in hospital two who never developed severe COVID and recovered on their own, they’re counted as not receiving hydroxychloroquine.
They’re batting against the softball pitchers, they’re batting in the night games. Whereas what you should do to correct for this is to call this an entirely different treatment plan. Just compare hospitals one and three. If you have in a study group, these people who are recovering just fine without any treatment at all, you should call this hospital as having a treatment plan and compare them one versus the other, like we talked about at the very beginning 9% to 18% to 23%.
Yes, if you just take the people who were– The 1,600 who received hydroxychloroquine treatment, 16.9% death. No hydroxychloroquine treatment, those 400 people who recovered on their own were thrown into that bin, which bolstered their numbers and brought it to 16.4%. I have seen this in the data. I’ve seen this in several studies or at the very least suspected in the Rosenberg Study out of New York that showed people receiving hydroxychloroquine dying like two to one. I’m not the only researcher who noticed this.
There was somebody who published a paper and it was censored. They published it as an article. It was taken down and they showed that in some of the research that people were inappropriately counted in one group or another in a way that caused a Simpson’s paradox. When you begin to look at the best data and you look at just the people who were treated early, you go to Dr. [unintelligible 00:45:37]. Only something like four of his last 10,000 patients, just four. Just background noise, you would expect two or three of them to die during the period of time they were treated and a lot of these are old people.
Then you look in New York and doctor Zelenko he had like two deaths out of like 2,000 something patients. Dr. Fareed in California, I think it was like no deaths out of 2,700 patients. Dr. Tyson here in Dallas, one death out of over a thousand patients. You begin to look where it was hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, and zinc. Saudi Arabia published data, less than a 10th of a percent mortality, if I recall correctly. That data is suggestive of a 90 something percent health benefit, if you use it early and in the right cocktail, right combination. Data can be put together that hides this effect because of the Simpson’s paradox.
Ari: Having said all of this, everything that you’ve described, these issues of scientific fraud, these issues of how studies can be designed based on giving a placebo “that’s not an actual placebo like vitamin C” or giving a medication that you want to prove is ineffective, giving it to patients who are already in the ICU, on the verge of death to show that it doesn’t have an effect on saving lives. There’s various ways of designing studies to get the outcome “that you want” or that benefits you in some way.
Again, these issues of overt scientific fraud. I want to mention here that there was a remarkable thing that happened back in November of 2020, the executive editor of one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world, The British Medical Journal, came out and, and put out an article titled COVID-19: Politicisation, Corruption, and Suppression of Science. This was absolutely remarkable. He didn’t mince words. He came out very directly.
For someone who’s an editor of a medical journal to be saying, as usually the medical journals are kind of funded by pharma. This is pretty rare, but he said very aggressively and directly. He said, “Politicians and governments are suppressing science.” They do so in the public interest, they say, to accelerate availability of diagnostics and treatments. They do so to support innovation, to bring products to market at unprecedented speed. Both of these reasons are partly plausible. The greatest deceptions are founded in a grain of truth, but the underlying behavior is troubling.”
Then he goes on to say, “Science is being suppressed for political and financial gain.” He also says, “When good science is suppressed by the medical-political complex, people die.” I find this pretty mind-blowing that he came out and called out this corruption and suppression of science so directly, but given everything that you’ve seen and uncovered through this whole hydroxychloroquine story, what does this say about COVID science and what does the say about science more broadly?
Matthew: I think it says that the control of the purse strings matters a lot and the control of the purse strings, it’s tied up with money, but it’s tied up with the ultimate sources of money. All the money that’s printed and comes from the government and that’s required to flow into research in order to have so many researchers at so many universities doing research that ultimately benefits pharmaceutical companies, which have a very long history of being among the most corrupt corporations, going all the way back to patent laws in Europe where you had merchants cozying up to some Royal in order to get some protection or official stamp of approval is usually what they were looking for in order to pedal snake oil. Drugs have gotten better since then, but there’s still a game that’s played over the money, for sure.
The editor of the Lancet said something not all that dissimilar a few years ago. He said, “You should not expect that they’re not money ties, that these journals do not depend on the advertising dollars that come from the pharmaceutical companies.” It’s there, we should be aware of it. We should probably do what we can to disentangle it to some degree possible. Something you brought up and I’m going to go ahead and tell the story a little bit more completely. You mentioned the false placebo. You mentioned an RCT that was run in which hydroxychloroquine was tested against vitamin C.
I’m going to go a little deeper with the story because there were actually three false placebo studies run at the same university. Maybe I’ve read 5,000 medical papers. I’ve never seen a false placebo study. It’s so science 101. It’s so unbelievable that people could even talk about this without going, “This is crazy,” but University of Minnesota, they did an early treatment, a post-exposure prophylaxis, and pre-exposure prophylaxis. Those are some of the only studies done in those areas that didn’t show clear statistically significant benefit.
The first two they used folate, and there was one rationale paper that came out of Iran in March of last year that suggested that folate might stop the virus. That study is still in pre-print one year on. None of the journals have published this, and it’s just a rationale paper. There’s no big science behind it, but it’s a– We should look at this because the mechanisms seem to line up. On the other hand, two different papers have come out that looked at hospital data showing that women who were pregnant were not getting COVID at nearly the rate like 90% reduced rate as everybody else. What is it that pregnant women take? Folate supplements.
There’s good reason to believe that folate is not an inert– You shouldn’t have reached for it to begin with. You should not have reached for anything that is a vitamin. vitamin E, vitamin C, anything like that-
Ari: Yet, of all the possible tens of thousands of substances that are known not to have an effect either biologically are known to be inert or are not theorized to have any benefit when it comes to immune health or COVID specifically, they specifically chose substances that have known benefits.
Matthew: As researchers and commentators pointed out this flaw which– You look at the first, at least one or two University of Minnesota studies, they don’t even mention the folate as placebo. That got faded out by researchers and tossed back at them. David Boulware who was the head of running those trials responded that he was being beset by Russian trolls.
Ari: I’m wondering if you’re familiar with this book and I would recommend it to everybody who is watching or listening to this. It’s by a guy named Ben Goldacre, he’s an MD and this book is called Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients. If you don’t want to read this 400-page book, he’s also got a couple of TED talks online, which you can watch in 15 or 20 minutes. I highly, highly recommend that you do so. Ben Goldacre is a brilliant guy, and he’s done amazing work in exposing corruption and bad science. Here’s one statistic that’s pulled out of his TED talk and his book that is really relevant to this whole discussion.
He found in his analysis that when pharmaceutical companies study their own drug or treatment vaccine, whatever it is, compared to when independent researchers do the exact same research on that substance, the pharma-funded research is 400% more likely to arrive at a positive result than the independent researchers. Just let that one statistic sink into your brain for a minute. What does that mean about basically all of the pharma-funded research? Consider there’s some pretty prominent medical treatments right now, wink-wink, that are funded by pharma and that were conducted essentially in-house.
For which there’s a great article in the British Medical Journal by a guy named Peter Doshi who has written about the fact that these companies are refusing to release their raw data to third parties. They haven’t even released the raw data. There’s a known history of the fact that when these companies study their own products, they’re 400% more likely to arrive at a positive result. As you mentioned, there’s a criminal history. There’s a history of being convicted of illegal acts around manipulating the data and overt scientific fraud, and so on. To me, it’s actually mind-blowing that anybody could possibly be so trusting of the data that comes out of these companies. Anyway, I just wanted to interject some of those–
Matthew: Can I throw in one more study on top? Just because a lot of people might respond with what you just said is, “Oh, we need like a non-governmental organization.” Somebody who’s independent, like the WHO. “Oh, wait didn’t, they run two trials and said hydroxychloroquine didn’t work?” I just want to mention what was wrong with their studies, and it looks just as engineered as everybody else’s. They took something that should work best in early-stage and used it again for extremely late-stage patients. In the solidarity trial, 62% of the patients were already on oxygen. Not much time for an anti-viral to work. They were not given azithromycin or any other macrolide, not given with zinc.
It looks like very contrived experimentation. Even then there are shenanigans that seem to have gone on, they removed documentation about the pharmacological studies on hydroxychloroquine and upped the dosage to being two and a half times the level they were originally talking about. That level has been talked about at the WHO as being potentially fatal. They used a potentially fatal dose. Another study in Brazil was killing patients very quickly, like 39% compared to something like 16% of the patients who were getting a normal dose.
They used a similar dose and it looks like they engineered it to where these numbers wound up being nearly the same fatality rate, but with the hydroxychloroquine being just a little bit higher. The pharmaceutical industry has been engineering ways to make the data look like what they want it to look like for many years. They’re a very clever bunch of goblins over there.
Ari: I want to maybe just call out two things that someone might respond to all of this podcast with. People might say, “Oh, you’re saying hydroxychloroquine is– There’s positive research. That means you’re a conspiracy theorist because so-and-so authority said that the data doesn’t support it. Only right-wingers politically support hydroxychloroquine. Are you covertly some political activists and you’re secretly working for the conservatives in the right wing to prove that hydroxychloroquine is a really legitimate beneficial therapy? Do you want to respond to any of those kinds of-
Matthew: I don’t really think much in terms of right-left, but I didn’t vote for Donald Trump and in fact, I’ve never cast a vote for a Republican in any major race. To me, the entire political realm went off the deep end so long ago that I looked for other ways to participate in the world and to try to make things right. I don’t know what to say to anybody who has that much trust in corporations that have that long of a history– Whereas Pfizer has been fined 75 times in the last 20 years from anything from bribery to making false claims about their research. There’s a long history.
We have nearly 40 papers that I know have been identified as fraudulent, or retracted, look on face fraudulent, and I’ve identified dozens of others that I think probably are. It’s endemic, it’s widespread. We need major changes. In the meantime, people need to learn to take care of their own health. They need to become the masters of their own health and to learn to look into research that may not all be perfect. We don’t know what some of these supplements that we take are, or exactly how beneficial they are. We don’t necessarily have good research on everything, but at the very least, we can be responsible to begin to study those things, and a lot of them are effective.
A lot of them are various balms of Gilead that you put a little bit in tea, and there’s a reason why Peruvians were taking this chloroquine– The quinine part from the trees five centuries ago. It was because it worked, it relieved the symptoms. There we go.
Ari: Beautiful thing to end on there. Matthew, thank you so much for your time. This has been a very interesting, very enlightening discussion. I really thank you for all of the work you’ve done over the last year to dig deep into this topic. Do you want to say anything about where people can follow your work or I don’t even know how much of an online presence you have or if you have any business endeavors online, but if you want to let people know where they can follow you and learn more from you, please feel free to do that?
Matthew: Yes. I recently created a Substack called Rounding The Earth and I’m putting out a few video conversations. I was planning on writing a book calling it the Chloroquine Wars, but I think I’m just going to publish it as a series of articles. I want it to be shared and disseminated widely. The goal is not to make money off of it. I just want to get the information out there.
Ari: Beautiful. Thank you, my friend, and the Substack for people who don’t know what that is. I don’t even know what that is quite frankly. I assume you could just Google Substack and then yours is titled Rounding The Earth.
Matthew: It’s a relatively recent newsletter format. It’s nice. You should check it out. You might like it.
Ari: Cool. Thank you so much, Matthew. This was a pleasure.
Matthew: All right. Thank you, Ari.
The media frenzy on hydroxychloroquine (05:11)
The Lancet scandal (13:38)
Behind the scenes on why France removed hydroxychloroquine from the OTC medicine list (33:49)
What the current science tells us on hydroxychloroquine (41:10)