Scientific petitions and open letters in the era of covid-19BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4048 (Published 26 October 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4048
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This article is welcome and clearly presents all the misinterpretations related to petitions, especially petitions whose aim is to settle scientific debates. JPA Ioannidis cites a few areas of COVID-19 petitions, without mentioning petitions on treatment. In France, the country of media and political controversies over the effectiveness of the hydroxychloroquine azithromycin combination to treat COVID-19, we have had petitions. Two of them were highly publicised and deleterious.
A mainstream newspaper, Le Parisien, together with a polling institute, published a survey conducted over the Internet from 3 to 4 April 2020 among a sample of 1016 French people aged 18 and over: 98% knew about the treatments of Prof. Didier Raoult (IHU of Marseille). The main question was: 'In your opinion, is this chloroquine-based protocol an effective treatment against the coronavirus? The answers were: yes 59%, no 20%, don't know 21%. This survey was widely commented on by other medias, in particular 24/7 televisions.
At the same time, a petition was signed by 580,000 citizens to "ask the Prime Minister and his Minister of Health to make hydroxychloroquine immediately available in all hospital pharmacies so that every hospital doctor can prescribe it to all patients with symptomatic forms of the Covid-19 condition, particularly those with lung disorders if their condition so requires”. Among the 12 petition carriers, all clinicians and politicians, were two former ministers of health, a member of parliament, and three members of the Academy of Medicine.
These petitions, which illustrate the words of JPA Ioannidis, have contributed to the dysfunctional management of COVID-19 patients. The patients demanded the Raoult treatment, and did not want to participate in the clinical trials. Health professionals had difficulties to treat according to the science.
Competing interests: No competing interests