Orthodox leader branded ‘dangerous amateur’ for promoting risky anti-virus drug

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Orthodox leader branded ‘dangerous amateur’ for promoting risky anti-virus drug

A top medical expert has sharply criticised the founder of the Jewish Community Council of North London for urging the government to back a high-risk drug to treat coronavirus.

Richard Ferrer has become a leading voice on Jewish communal issues since becoming editor of the Jewish News in 2009, writing about contemporary Jewish life for a national audience. He edited the Boston Jewish Advocate, America's oldest Jewish newspaper and created the Channel 4 series Jewish Mum of the Year.

Family wearing a mask to protect others from the virus
Family wearing a mask to protect others from the virus

The founder of an organisation claiming to represent London’s Orthodox Jewish community has been branded a “dangerous amateur” for launching a campaign urging the government to approve a high-risk drug to treat coronavirus.

Levi Shapiro, from the Jewish Community Council (JCC) of North London based in Stamford Hill, issued a press release this week stating: “As part of our communal response to COVID19 we started a campaign to ask the government to follow the US in approving the Hydroxychloroquine drug to treat COVID-19 patients, which the FDA and President Trump approved in America and has so far proven to work saving thousands of patients from being admitted to hospital and 100% making a full recovery.

The 27-year-old, who it is understood to have no medical background, continues:“We have reached out to many senior government officials who have knowledge of this drug but are extremely slow in providing answers why not or yes (sic) to facilitate this drug. We know NHS doctors have written to the Government asking them to consider this option given the fact the100% success rate of this drug.

Shapiro, who has refereed to the JCC as “the Board of Deputies of Stamford Hill”, adds: “I personally know many patients who have been treated on this drug including a paramedic who contracted the virus and has made a swift and full recovery thanks to a doctor who treated them on Hydroxychloroquine.”

Ellie Cannon, one of the UK’s most high-profile GPs, told Jewish News: “Medicine isn’t done on the back of an envelope because someone read about something happening in America or Israel – and certainly not by email or viral WhatsApp messages. Medicine should be dealt with by responsible professionals, not dangerous amateurs. This man will have a lot to answer for when patients start taking this drug unnecessary and die, not from coronavirus but from liver and kidney injuries.”

Doctor Cannon added: “The Centre For Evidence Based Medicine, which publishes data on Covid-19, issued a study last week which shows Hydroxychloroquine carries high risks of side effects including liver and kidney damage. Even if it does work, we need to save it for people seriously ill in intensive care, not taking it freely in the community. This drug is used by people for rheumatological conditions such as lupus, so it would be absolutely unethical to use up their supplies.”

Shapio responded to the GP’s criticism, telling Jewish News: “While Dr Cannon is entitled to her view she may be interested to know this campaign did not come off the back of a WhatsApp chat. The decision many medical activists have taken to lobby government to approve this drug comes as a result of many hours of scientific research and successful trials which doctors have conducted in other European countries and America, were they have successfully treated many COVID-19 patients on this drug.

“We are aware of the risks this drug may have on patients with other health conditions and using a combination of other drugs, which is why we are not “claiming” for this to be the cure. All we are asking is if a doctor feels it’s necessary to prescribe it he should be allowed to.

“In dark times like this everyone should be looking out in a positive and constructive way how to help each other without having to undermine other people. We are grateful that the government has taken this campaign seriously and will soon be starting trials in the UK.”
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) advises Hydroxychloroquine should not be used to treat COVID-19, unless within a clinical trial. In a statement the agency cautioned prescribers that hydroxychloroquine is not licensed to treat COVID-19 symptoms or prevent infection.
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