'Don’t speak for me': Yale doctor battles CNN anchor over effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine

CNN anchor, Yale professor spar over hydroxychloroquine

Yale epidemiology professor Dr. Harvey Risch and CNN host John Berman bickered over hydroxychloroquine on Monday during a heated discussion about the polarizing drug, which the president has hailed as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

Risch recently wrote an op-ed in support of hydroxychloroquine, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Deborah Birx and other experts have dismissed the anti-malarial drug being used to combat coronavirus. Risch cited various studies that backed up his pro-hydroxychloroquine stance, but the host of CNN's "New Day" disagreed.

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“None of those studies that you just cited are random placebo-controlled trials, what Dr. Fauci refers to as the gold standard,” Berman said, as the CNN on-screen chyron stated “Growing body of evidence shows hydroxychloroquine is ineffective.”

Risch responded: “That’s not actually correct. The problem with those randomized controlled trials, is they were trials done on the wrong people. They were trials done on low-risk people with low risks of hospitalization and mortality. You don’t do a study of prostate cancer with women… because nobody is gonna get the outcome.”

Risch said the studies were conducted on “very low-risk people who are not going to get hospitalized or die” from coronavirus.

“We don’t treat those people. We treat high-risk people,” Risch said.

Berman then accused Risch of being inconsistent compared to the op-ed, but the Yale epidemiologist disagreed and the interview grew contentious.

“You’re misstating what I said, I said it had to be in high-risk people,” Risch said. “As I’ve said, you have to treat the right people. You have to study the right people. Those studies did not study the right people, period. That’s the bottom line.”

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Berman insisted the studies have included a wide range of participants.

“Again, the question is,” a frustrated Berman continued, “Why haven’t any random, placebo-controlled trials showed benefit? Isn’t that a problem for an epidemiologist?”

“No,” Risch shot back. “In fact, the FDA has a huge history of drugs going into widespread use in the medical community for decades that have not been established in the basis of randomized controlled trials. Half of the chemotherapy drugs used in cancer were used without randomized controlled trials.”

CNN’s on-screen graphic, which has grown notoriously snarky, sided with Berman, who continued to disagree with Risch.

“Yale epidemiologist insists, against evidence, hydroxychloroquine works,” the chyron said.

The two continued to argue over the importance of randomized controlled trials, with the CNN host dismissing Risch.

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“Randomized, placebo-controlled trials, which Dr. Fauci does refer to as the gold standard, are so useful and I know you know that,” Berman said at one point.

“Don’t speak for me,” Risch said as Berman spoke over him.

When Risch was allowed to respond, he told Berman that he made “three or four wrong statements” during the segment and the two continued to bicker over the details of the trials – some of which Berman considers to be “sketchy.”

“None of them are sketchy,” Risch said.

Grabien Media founder Tom Elliot mocked Berman following the interview.

“What CNN's @JohnBerman's doing now w/ a Yale prof who’s written on hydroxychloroquine’s benefits for Covid is not reporting, nor journalism. He’s just venting,” Elliot tweeted.

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