Chloroquine: miracle or mirage? 

April 6th, 2020, by Labtoo's team

The opinion of the French on chloroquine and the search for treatments against coronavirus

The world is experiencing a major health crisis and is waiting for a response from the scientific research community to find a vaccine and a treatment for SARS-CoV-2 infection and get us out of the crisis.

We conducted a survey with Ifop to gauge public opinion on Chloroquine and on support for research projects on Coronavirus and other diseases. The results show that we are living in a unique moment: the vast majority of the French population has an opinion on the efficacy of a drug. The scientific world very widely advocates the precautionary principle due to the weak evidence from clinical trials on the use of Chloroquine for the treatment of Covid-19.

If Chloroquine were to prove useful, policy makers would have to react quickly to avoid a double health catastrophe: the self-medication of a molecule with deleterious side effects and the pandemic that would continue due to a lack of stock due to late production.

This study also highlights the opinion of the French people on the support of public authorities for Research projects. According to a large majority of them, support is insufficient for both Coronavirus projects (55%) and other pathologies (70%).

At a time when a petition signed by medical personalities (e.g. Philippe Douste-Blazy, Patrick Pelloux, etc.) and nearly 200,000 signatories is reviving the chloroquine debate within the scientific community, Ifop is publishing a survey for Labtoo, a platform for medical research, which shows that the majority of public opinion is convinced of the effectiveness of the protocol defended by Professor Raoult and largely supports relaxing the conditions for prescribing chloroquine.

1. Do the French know that there is a chloroquine-based treatment against coronavirus?

In view of the results of the survey, the question of the benefits of chloroquine against coronavirus has largely exceeded the circle of scientific and political experts insofar as almost all French people (98%) have talked about it and the majority of them (58%) see precisely what this anti-malarial treatment, often used today against certain autoimmune diseases, consists of.

2. Do the French think that chloroquine is effective against coronavirus?

At a time when a petition signed by medical personalities (e.g. Philippe Douste-Blazy, Patrick Pelloux...) and nearly 100 000 signatories is reviving the debate on chloroquine within the scientific community, the majority of public opinion seems to be convinced of its effectiveness against the coronavirus: 59% of French people believe that it is an effective treatment against the coronavirus, against 20% who think the opposite and 21% who have no opinion on the subject.
In the detail of the results, it is interesting to note that the belief in the efficacy of Chloroquine (on average 59%) is closely correlated with the conspiratorial idea that the virus was manufactured in a laboratory (65%) and that it is particularly in the ranks of those between extremes (LFI: 80%, RN: 66%), right-wing voters (71% of LR sympathisers) and yellow vest supporters (80%). It also creates an original regional divide in that it is in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur - where Professor Raoult's laboratory is located - that belief in the efficacy of Chloroquine is strongest: 74% of the inhabitants of the region with Marseille as its capital believe in it, compared with only 58% of the inhabitants of the Paris region.
If the majority of French people are convinced by the benefits of the therapeutic solution advocated by Professor Raoult, chloroquine seems to be particularly defended by the categories of French people with a conspiratorial grid of the health crisis and the people generally the most sceptical about the speeches of the Parisian health authorities and the government. By raising hopes above all in the ranks of those most opposed to the government (e.g. Yellow Vests, radical left and right, LR voters) or the most sensitive faxe news related, the debate on chloroquine thus highlights pre-existing social, political or geographical cleavages which make it, along with the debate on mask management, a factor of rupture of the national union that had for a time presided over the crisis.

3. How many French people would like the conditions for prescribing choloroquine to be relaxed?

While the petition called for an urgent relaxation of the possibilities of prescribing hydroxychloroquine, this study shows that nearly one in two (49%) is in favour of its prescription no longer being reserved for hospital doctors but extended to city doctors so that they can prescribe it to their coronavirus patients. On the other hand, the French support more clearly (55%) the current position of the public authorities who limit its prescription to the most seriously affected patients.

4. When do the French think an effective treatment against coronavirus will be available?

The French are in any case rather sceptical about the rapid spread of an effective treatment against the coronavirus: only 21% of them think that a treatment will be available "before this summer (June 2020)" and a third (32%) "after this summer (September 2020)". Thus, nearly half (47%) believe that it will be necessary to wait until 2021 for an effective treatment to be available in France.

5. How do the French view support for research against coronavirus and other diseases?

Finally, the French judge the action of the public authorities in this area quite severely, since a majority of them believe that they do not sufficiently support research work on the coronavirus (55%) but also on viruses other than the coronavirus (67%).

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