Still from the America’s Frontline Doctors video.
Still from the America’s Frontline Doctors video. Credit: MedPage Today.

America’s Frontline Doctors ‘Front Line’ Claim Debunked

Last updated:

A video promoting hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19 featured a couple of L.A.-area physicians, including a Santa Monica pediatrician and a UCLA physician and health policy researcher.

The video featured a group of medical professionals who called themselves America’s Frontline Doctors. They spoke on the steps of the Supreme Court at an event hosted by Tea Party Patriots. President Donald Trump shared the video online, but social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube took it down for making false claims. You can still read this transcript, though. 

According to USA Today, the physicians in the video may not even work in areas that would make them experts on infectious diseases. Meanwhile, medical news service MedPage Today reports that these doctors may never have been on the “front line” when it comes to COVID-19.

Locally, Dr. Bob Hamilton is a pediatrician who has a private practice in Santa Monica and hospital privileges at Providence Saint John’s Health Center and UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, according to his website and MedPage Today. He spoke on the importance of reopening schools while agreeing on the importance of PPE and other precautions, stating that “children as a general rule are taking this virus very, very well” and that they “are not the drivers of this pandemic.”

Then, there’s Dr. Joseph Ladapo. UCLA Health lists him as a physician and health policy researcher and an associate professor-in-residence at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. He introduced himself in the video by saying, “I’m a physician at UCLA, and I’m a clinical researcher also. And I’m speaking for myself and not on behalf of UCLA.”

Ladapo said the “mainstream” perspective is that hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work, which is what he believed until he started “talking to doctors who would look more closely than some of the physicians behind me here, who would look more closely at the data and at the studies.” He said there is both “evidence against it and there’s evidence for” hydroxychloroquine as a viable treatment option and wondered how the right answer could be to limit a physician’s use of the medication.

Ladapo’s comments seemed to advocate for an open-minded study of hydroxychloroquine. However, he was followed by Dr. Stella Immanuel, who claimed she put 350 patients on hydroxychloroquine — and they all improved. “Any study that says hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work is fake science, and I want them to show me how it doesn’t work,” she said.

Immanuel, as you may have heard, has also said various gynecological issues are caused by having dream-sex with demons and that reptiles run the government.

In an op-ed for USA Today from March 24, Ladapo said he’d taken care of patients at UCLA hospitals and that it was too late to shut down.

“Can you imagine a United States in which children are forced to forgo proper schooling, unemployment and poverty decimate millions more lives, and our economy is strangled into a persistent depression?” he wrote. “And all for a virus that, when all is said and done, most people will recover from — even the elderly (death rates are highest in adults older than 80, at 10-20%)? The lockdown cost will be staggering — far more costly than COVID-19’s horrific wrath. This terrible trade-off is the path upon which we’ve set ourselves because our public health system was unprepared for a pandemic.”

UCLA did not confirm whether Ladapo would have encountered COVID-19 patients, but did provide the following statement regarding hydroxychloroquine:

“Any comments by UCLA Health physicians in news stories and op-eds should not necessarily be interpreted as representing UCLA Health as an institution. Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial and autoimmune drug, is not proven to be safe or effective for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 and is not recommended for use outside of clinical trials, according to this FDA statement. A UCLA Health randomized clinical trial of inpatients, funded by the NIH, found no benefit of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19.”

America’s Frontline Doctors’ self-professed founder Dr. Simone Gold is listed as a board-certified emergency physician in L.A. on her website, according to MedPage Today. Her website also links to an essay regarding face coverings.

“Not wearing a mask is not mere ‘personal choice’ like deciding between a head covering or a t-shirt,” she wrote. “It is a flashpoint for being a free human being who has consented to be governed but has not consented to be ruled. We do not consent to a masked America, because that is a fundamental change in American society, culture, norms, and rights.”

Other members of America’s Frontline Doctors included a doctor of osteopathic medicine who co-owns a California urgent care center and an ophthalmologist from Houston.

However, Dr. Anthony Fauci told MSNBC they were “a bunch of people spouting something that isn’t true.”

Los Angeleno