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It was 1793. George Washington was President. Philadelphia was the U.S. capitol. Dr. Benjamin Rush, a Philadelphia physician and former surgeon-general of Washington’s army, was the de facto head of the Department of Health of the new country.
When a yellow-fever epidemic hit Philadelphia, President George Washington fled to Virginia. Dr. Rush stayed behind and worked hard to quarantine and treat the sick. But his treatment, according to Ron Chernow in his biography of Alexander Hamilton, probably did more harm than good:
Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton stayed in the Philadelphia area where both he and his wife caught yellow fever. But instead of submitting to Dr. Rush’s standard treatment, they found an old friend from the Caribbean, Dr. Edward Stevens, who quickly cured both of them using quinine, a treatment that he had learned about in Scotland and St. Croix. According to Chernow:
Despite the best efforts of doctors Rush and Stevens, about 10% of the people of Philadelphia died of yellow fever, as compared to less than 1%, so far, in the countries most hard-hit by COVID-19 today: Belgium (0.7%), Spain (0.5%) and Italy (0.5%).
Politicization of Quinine in 1793
On September 11, 1793, after he and his wife had recovered from yellow fever, Alexander Hamilton wrote a letter to the College of Physicians in Philadelphia extolling Stevens’ treatment:
Benjamin Rush read Hamilton’s letter and tried the quinine treatment on his patients for several days, but gave it up when he could not achieve Stevens’ results. According to Chernow:
Benjamin Rush and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson were part of a political faction that eventually become the Democratic-Republican Party, so they opposed anything recommended by Treasury Secretary Hamilton, leader of the faction that eventually became the Federalist Party. Chernow writes:
Unfortunately for Dr. Rush, the main result of this stand against quinine was that he lost his medical practice. Chernow writes:
The similarity between the drug used by Dr. Stevens in 1793 and the one used by Dr. Vladimir Zelenko in 2020, when COVID-19 raged through a New York Hasidic community, is remarkable. Dr. Zelenko’s hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in 2020 is simply an advanced synthetic form of the quinine used by Dr. Stevens. Dr. Stevens learned about it first hand in the Caribbean. Dr. Zelenko learned about it through Internet research about treatments used in South Korea and France.
Both drugs are zinc-ionophores, meaning that they open cell walls so that zinc can get into them. Once inside, zinc can attach itself to viral strands, and thus slow virus replication, giving the body’s immune system a chance to catch up. Dr. Zelenko’s prescribed cocktail only requires 5 days of treatment:
Politicization of HCQ in 2020
On Sunday April 5, President Trump suggested at his daily press briefing that HCQ may be able to work against COVID-19. He said:
The reaction from Democrats was just as strong as the reaction of Democratic-Republicans when Alexander Hamilton endorsed quinine as a treatment for yellow fever. Democrat state representative Karen Whitsett found this out the hard way when she recommended HCQ after it cured her of COVID-19. The Detroit Democrat Party now threatens to censure her and deny her any future party endorsements.
Just as Benjamin Rush did with quinine 217 years ago, today’s U.S. health bureaucracy has been throwing cold water upon HCQ. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) sponsored a study in which the Veterans Administration administered HCQ to zinc-deficient patients without simultaneously administering zinc. Making their test of HCQ even less fair, they assigned sicker patients to the HCQ group and healthier patients to the control group. As could be expected, the HCQ group actually did worse than the control group.
At present the U.S. health bureaucracy is not recommending any treatment for COVID-19, so Dr. Zelenko’s cocktail could be the best choice for primary-care physicians to prescribe when symptoms first appear.
Research by Benjamin Rush and the NIH shows that there are two non-treatments that primary care physicians should avoid prescribing: (1) injecting quinine into bowels while drenching the patient in cold water, and (2) giving HCQ to zinc-deficient patients without giving them zinc supplements at the same time.
Click here to read it on the American Thinker's website.
Comment by Brian K, 5/4/2020:
Great, well articulated article.Thanks for sharing.
Comment by Yankel, 5/19/2020:
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