Christian Radio Host Doubles Down on Support For Unproven Coronavirus ‘Cure,’ National Institutes of Health Oppose

On his April 21 show, Christian radio host Frank Sontag doubled down on his support for an unproven coronavirus cure touted by Trump supporter and New York physician Dr. Vladimir Zelenko.

Sontag — who mocked people’s fear of the deadly virus in March — interviewed Dr. Zelenko on Los Angeles-based KKLA, owned by the Salem Media Group, on April 20.

Dr. Zelenko claimed on KKLA that his three-drug cocktail of 200 mg of hydroxychloroquine (anti-malaria medication), 500 mg of azithromycin (antibiotic) and 220 mg of zinc sulfate — given over a number of days — has successfully treated COVID-19 patients in Kiryas Joel, New York.

A U.S. National Institutes of Health panel — 50 doctors, pharmacy experts and government researchers and officials — has “recommended against the use of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in combination with the antibiotic azithromycin to treat the coronavirus,” notes Bloomberg Law.

Dr. Simon Clarke, an associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, told the Express & Star (UK) that it is “absolute garbage” that zinc can somehow “block” the coronavirus from spreading in the respiratory system.

Dr. Jeff Paley, who shares some patients with Dr. Zelenko, told the New York Times that it was “irresponsible” for Dr. Zelenko to tout his three-drug cocktail without warning people that the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin can cause severe side effects.

The fact-checking website Snopes notes that Dr. Zelenko’s claims are unproven, but have been promoted by President Donald Trump and Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

During his April 21 radio show, Sontag defended Dr. Zelenko and trashed a report by the Associated Press about a nationwide study of Veterans Administration patients.

The study — submitted to the New England Journal of Medicine and posted at Medrxiv.org for researchers on April 16 — showed there were more deaths among vets who were given hydroxychloroquine (with or without the antibiotic azithromycin) versus a second group of vets given standard medical care.

Sontag complained that the Associated Press story accurately noted that Trump has promoted hydroxychloroquine for treating the coronavirus.

Sontag also urged his listeners not take the nationwide Veterans Administration study at face value:

I need more information before I go, “Wow, well that really proves that hydroxychloroquine may not really be appropriate to be used.”

Sontag whined about how “sick” he was of hearing about scientific models that are continually updated by scientists as the death and infection numbers keep changing (which is exactly how scientific models track the effectiveness of measures to slow pandemics).

Sontag then read a Fox News story (Sontag did not identify the source) about a poll conducted by SERMO, a health care data collection company.

Fox News said the SERMO poll “found that one-quarter (5,158) of more than 20,000 physicians around the world believe the anti-malarial drug should be used to prevent infections. Separately, 50 percent of the physicians surveyed have used the anti-malarial drug in professional settings since March 25.”

The Medical Republic, an Australian website, noted the data mining controversy surrounding SERMO:

In 2011, a member of the SERMO team, Thomas Rhines, tweeted that as well as research, SERMO “listen[s] to the physicians’ conversations to mine business and competitive intel”. SERMO users took to Twitter voicing their surprise and outrage.

Dr Mark Ryan, a US doctor based in Richmond, Virginia, said on Twitter: “@SermoTeam could have been useful; lack of moderation/professional behaviour limits appeal; data mining kills it for me.”

Other doctors also went online to voice their concerns with SERMO’s conversation mining, with New York doctor Jay Parkinson writing on his blog: “They are spreading their propaganda and spying on us in order to sell more me-too drugs … I already am a member but I don’t use it because I feel like some filthy voyeur is watching me.”

Sontag noted on Twitter that hydroxychloroquine has been safe for 50 years in treating malaria, but failed to mention the dangers using a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin — for the coronavirtus — which can cause severe side effects.

(Sources: KKLA, Johns Hopkins Medicine, The Associated Press, Medrxiv.org, New York Times, Fox News, The Medical Republic. SERMO, Snopes, New York Times, Frank Sontag/Twitter, Bloomberg Law)

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