On the same day coronavirus was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, three strangers found one another on Twitter and discussed their hopes for a treatment using the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine.
That March 11 conversation between a cryptocurrency investor, a law school graduate and a self-described philosopher led to a paper published two days later on Google Docs — which falsely claimed the approval of two major universities and the National Academy of Sciences — and soon landed them on Fox News, reported Politico.
“James Todaro, a medical school graduate-turned cryptocurrency investor, and Greg Rigano, a law school graduate and fellow crypto investor, started publicly inquiring about the drug, which was starting to get some attention because of some initial anecdotal evidence and early, limited studies,” the website reported.
Adrian Bye, the philosopher involved in the online discussion but didn’t co-author the paper, agreed the methods “weren’t ideal,” but was glad the document put the potential treatment into public view.
Rigano wrote the first draft, telling Bye that he and an “eminent scientist” were prepared to publish a “peer reviewed” paper that showed chloroquine could cure and prevent COVID-19, but Bye was worried that rushing out the drug too soon could create a chloroquine-resistant coronavirus strain.
Scientists have seen no evidence the coronavirus is mutating to become more dangerous, but they also haven’t seen enough evidence to say whether chloroquine works against the virus.
The Food and Drug Administration has given emergency approval to the drug as a COVID-19 treatment, but preliminary studies from China and France have defects that make their results inconclusive.
The paper was then shared by Elon Musk on his Twitter feed, and Rigano and Todaro were booked on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program.
The following day, President Donald Trump incorrectly pronounced the FDA had approved the drug, which at the time had only been approved for clinical trials, and he continues pushing hydroxychloroquine as a possible miracle cure.