After weeks of touting an unproven anti-malarial drug as a potential coronavirus cure, Dr. Mehmet Oz did an abrupt about-face on Wednesday, noting that a recent study shows “we don’t know” if hydroxychloroquine works as a COVID-19 treatment.
Appearing on Fox & Friends, Oz was asked by co-host Brian Kilmeade—who has also been heavily promoting the drug—to react to a Veterans Administration study that found no benefit to hydroxychloroquine and that there was actually a higher rate of death among coronavirus patients who received it as treatment.
“The VA study looked at older and quite a bit sicker patients—all male patients—in their hospitals and they showed that the drug by itself didn’t help, it might harm that population,” the TV doctor replied.
He pointed out that other studies he has previously hyped found the drug had some effectiveness as a treatment, but added that those studies found the benefits came when patients received the drug early on. He also noted that the studies were different in nature, as the VA study was retrospective.
“The fact of the matter is, we don’t know,” Oz declared. “Thankfully these medications are prescription-only, so doctors are desperately awaiting the completion of the higher quality randomized trials, and we’ve covered them on the show several times.”
In another stunning turnaround, the celebrity doctor backed top infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci’s repeated calls to wait for randomized clinical trials before prescribing the drug as a coronavirus treatment.
“I got to say, I think at this point there is so much data coming from so many places, we are better off waiting for the randomized trials Dr. Fauci has been asking for,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s—we keep reacting back and forth for studies that show opposite results. And a lot of it might have to do with when you get the medication.”
Two weeks ago, however, Oz was singing a much different tune, disagreeing with Fauci’s concerns over the drug while waving off the need to wait for further data.
“He’s a pro and I respect him a lot, but a small study that shows statistical significance is a really important observation,” he proclaimed on April 6. “If it takes me 30,000 patients to show a difference, is that better than showing a difference in 62 patients? If a small trial demonstrates statistically significant differences, you should respect it.”
A panel of experts at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which includes Fauci, now recommends against doctors using a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin to treat coronavirus patients, citing possible deadly side effects.
While incessantly promoting the drug over the past few weeks, Oz also frequently insisted that it was necessary for doctors to prescribe it because we were in a war-like situation.
“But we march into battle with the army we have, and doctors around the world are choosing hydroxychloroquine more than any other solution,” he wrote in an op-ed this month.
In recent days, Fox News’ round-the-clock promotion of the malaria drug has drastically dropped off as more studies show the lack of benefit and effectiveness in treating the deadly coronavirus. At the same time, President Donald Trump has also ceased touting the drug, which he has previously called a “game-changer” and told the public they had nothing “to lose” by taking it.