After testing positive for the coronavirus, the Brazilian president Bolsonaro publicly took a tablet of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine. This drug, however, has not proved effective against COVID-19 and its use against it is not approved anywhere in the world. This move, alongside President Trump’s embrace of the drug, illustrates how politicized research into this drug has become and how a next step has been taken towards the politicization of science as we know it.
What does this mean?
The deconstruction of scientific “facts” has long ceased to be the exclusive province of critical scientists themselves. We’ve seen this with other complex issues, in which there will always be room for doubt (e.g. climate change or 5G) and now we’re seeing it with a relatively straightforward issue such as the effectiveness of (existing) medication. This is partly the result of rushed, and therefore in part flawed research, but mostly of deeply-rooted mistrust in established institutions that, for whatever reason, are suspected of wanting to impede the development of an effective and affordable cure.
From now on, we should be mindful of the fact that any study may be called into question and that this will be increasingly based on the intentions and underlying interests of the researcher. Sometimes, we are right to doubt; we know, for example, that funding, even in medicine research, can influence research findings (i.e. funding bias). However, we seem to be taking it a step further, which is diminishing our shared knowledge base. As a consequence, in the future attempts to combat fake news (and the broader infocalypse) could become even more futile than they are now.