Debate Magazine


Posted on the 23 May 2020 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth

This whole topic is fascinating.
Donald Trump just plucked it out of nowhere. Outlets like The Guardian poured scorn on the idea (this article is a joy to read). Some doctors say it helps or might help; others say it's nonsense. A lot of people say they took it with no side effects (but we'll never hear from those took it and died). Many small scale trials have had mixed or inconclusive results.
Ever the contrarian, I'd be delighted if it does help. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day (or in Trump's case, a stopped calendar, he's right twice a year).
However, it appears that some researchers are taking it seriously enough to do a very large scale trial. Possibly for the satisfaction of proving that Trump is an idiot, but hey. No experiment has ever 'failed'. You do them to find out whether anything happens and if so, what happens. So even if nothing happens or the opposite of what you expect happens, that experiment has not 'failed' on its own terms. It has advanced human knowledge, however slightly.
But... are these trials really necessary?
We've been running a large scale real-world trial for decades - the drug is regularly taken against malaria, and is taken by people suffering from lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Why don't we just go back and find out what the COVID-19 infection and death rates are among the hundreds or thousands (millions?) of people who are taking it anyway for other reasons?

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