Christian Radio Host Promotes Pro-Trump Doctor Who Claims Unproven Cure For Coronavirus

Christian radio host Frank Sontag, who has a program on KKLA in Los Angeles, touted his most important interview as a chat with Dr. Vladimir Zelenko who claims to have successfully treated coronavirus patients with a three-drug cocktail in Kiryas Joel, New York.

Sontag, who claims to be “pro-life,” openly mocked people who were concerned about the coronavirus on March 10, after 4,000 Americans had died.

Dr. Zelenko told Sontag on April 20 that a combination 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.

Dr. Zelenko claimed that hydroxychloroquine opens the body’s cells so that zinc sulfate can enter the cells and kill the coronavirus.

However, a nationwide 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 those given hydroxychloroquine (with or without the antibiotic azithromycin) versus medical standard care, notes the Associated Press:

Researchers analyzed medical records of 368 male veterans hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus infection at Veterans Health Administration medical centers who died or were discharged by April 11.

About 28% who were given hydroxychloroquine plus usual care died, versus 11% of those getting routine care alone. About 22% of those getting the drug plus azithromycin died too, but the difference between that group and usual care was not considered large enough to rule out other factors that could have affected survival. Hydroxychloroquine made no difference in the need for a breathing machine, either.

The nationwide study — funded by National Institutes of Health and the University of Virginia has not yet been reviewed by other scientists.

Additionally, Dr Simon Clarke, 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” coronavirus from spreading in the respiratory system:

It’s classic over-interpretation. This would cure much – but not all – of the common cold if it were true.

Dr. Clarke added that zinc can boost your immune system and therefore making people more resilient overall.

Dr. Zelenko did not mention how azithromycin helps stop the coronavirus. Azithromycinas is an antibiotic that fights bacteria.

Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that “antibiotics cannot kill viruses or help you feel better when you have a virus.”

Dr. Zelenko told Sontag that this treatment, if used widely, could reopen the economy in only three days.

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.

Dr. Zelenko — who supports Trump — told Sontag that he has been in contact with Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows, Fox News host Sean Hannity and Giuliani.

Twitter removed a tweet by Giuliani on March 27 that included direct quotes from Trump supporter Charlie Kirk who claimed — without evidence — that hydroxychloroquine has a “100% effective rate treating COVID-19,” noted Mediaite.

Dr. Zelenko reportedly boasted of his own success in a March 21 video that was addressed to Trump: “I’m seeing tremendous positive results.”

David Juurlink, the head of the division of clinical pharmacology at the University of Toronto, told the New York Times that Dr. Zelenko’s treatment is so far inconclusive:

Anyone who tells you these drugs work, or don’t work, is not basing that view on science. There’s reason to be optimistic, and there’s also reason to be pessimistic.

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:

I’ve gotten numerous calls from patients demanding the regimen, saying they believe Dr. Zelenko is magically curing his patients.

There have been shortages of hydroxychloroquine — which is normally used to treat chronic conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis — because of the alleged claims it can cure the coronavirus.

Media Matters notes that Fox News personalities and guests promoted the use of the chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment over 100 times from March 23-25.

(Sources: Snopes, The New York Times, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Maztav.com, Mediaite, KKLA, Media Matters, Express & Star, Medrxiv.org, The Associated Press)

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