3D medical animation still shot showing structure of a coronavirus — Wikimedia, Creative Commons license
3D medical animation still shot showing structure of a coronavirus — Wikimedia, Creative Commons license

Experts, Evidence & Hydroxychloroquine

Always Be Evaluating Your Sources—Especially During a Pandemic

Robert Stribley
6 min readJul 29, 2020

*Updated July 31, 2020 to include additional significant randomized studies, including those examining the use of hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure

Can I provide an illustration of why it’s always important to consider evidence from multiple authoritative sources when studying subjects like COVID-19, the use of masks, and in this case, the use of hydroxychloroquine? Especially during this time of pandemic. (But, really, this strategy applies to any subject.)

If I were to look for something that initially seems compelling (as a non expert, non epidemiologist) on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in treating COVID, this Newsweek essay by Yale professor Harvey Risch certainly might grab my attention.

I read that piece and though some of it sounded compelling, it seemed to me like Risch was making some leaps in causality with his examples of Brazil and Switzerland. Turns out David Gorski—who knows the subject much better than I—was able to explain in great detail why those examples show a cause and effect fallacy but he also continued to break down how Risch references some really bad studies and to explain that Risch’s own work has been appropriately criticized.

Additionally — and more importantly — two studies on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine came out the same day Risch published his piece, both of which included more participants than many of the questionable (sometimes even debunked) studies many keep referencing online.

  1. The first clinical trial with 667 participants was published in New England Journal of Medicine and showed hydroxychloroquine does not help patients with medium to severe cases of COVID. To reiterate: It didn’t work at all.
  2. The second trial with 293 participants was published in Clinical Infectious Diseases and involved non-hospitalized medium severity COVID patients and it also showed no effect. NO benefit…



Robert Stribley

Writer. Photographer. UXer. Creative Director. Interests: immigration, privacy, human rights, design. UX: Publicis Groupe. Teach: SVA. Aussie/American. He/him.