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3.avril.20203.4.2020
Article LesCrises

Who is French Dr. Raoult ? Anti-Establishment Rebel or Unethical Megalomaniac ?

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J'envoie

These are difficult times. We are confronted with a virus whose characteristics we do not yet fully understand, and which is claiming the lives of hundreds of people every day.

On our blog Les-Crises, we try to modestly contribute to the public debate, in order to make information as accessible as possible. The « race for Chloroquine » fever is causing intense controversy in France. As a result, chloroquine has drifted away from its original subject, namely medicine, to now invade the papers with political viewpoints, and self-proclaimed experts.

True to our mission to inform with no taboos, and often against the mainstream, we would like to report a few facts about Professor Didier Raoult, the new star in social networks, and now in media too. The elements you are about to read in this paper would suggest that it is not a good idea to rely solely on one’ s judgment, given the rather amazing and dramatic history of his life.

Enjoy your reading,
Olivier Berruyer

Summary
  1. Back in January 2020, what was Didier Raoult’s analysis concerning the threat of a pandemic ?
  2. At the early stages of the collapse, what was Didier Raoult’s message ?
  3. Raoult was nevertheless rewarded by the Government
  4. In the midst of the collapse, what is Didier Raoult’s message ?
  5. Over 1,000 casualties: a perfect time to publish a book !
  6. Didier Raoult: a researcher or a manager ?
  7. he IGAS’s [ General Inspection of Social Affairs] position as regards the management of the Marseilles IHU [Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire] by Didier Raoult
  8. Weird  » scams  » at the IHU Marseille Infection
  9. Suffering among Raoult’s teams
  10. #ThemToo
  11. Didier Raoult : a global warming denier
  12. Conclusion

I. Back in January 2020, what was Didier Raoult’s analysis concerning the threat of a pandemic ?

The SARS-2 coronavirus appeared in November/December in China. Very quickly, having learnt from the country’s experience in dealing with the dangerous SARS-1, the Chinese government responded and took drastic measures. Here is Didier Raoult’s reaction dated January 23, 2020, regarding the measures taken by the Chinese government, and therefore the threat of an epidemic in France :

Q. – Prof. Didier Raoult, a coronavirus epidemic is on the news in China at the moment. Is this something we should fear ?

Raoult – You know, this is a crazy world. The fact is that some people have died from the coronavirus in China, you know, I don’t feel so concerned. It’s true to say that the world has gone completely crazy, that is to say that if something is happening where there are three Chinese people who are dying and that becomes a worldwide alert, the WHO gets involved, it’s on the radio and on television. […] In other words, there is no longer any sense of lucidity.
Whenever there is a disease in the world we wonder whether we are going to have the same thing in France . It has become utterly insane. [ …] I don’t know, people don’t seem to have anything to worry about, so they try and find something to be afraid of in China, just because they are unable to face what they might be afraid of if staying in France. That’s it, this is not serious.
Didier Raoult, January 21st 2020, Youtube IHU Méditerranée Infection (archives)
And he kept going in the written media, here on February 1st (source) :

Eleven years ago, in the midst of the H1N1 crisis, Professor Bernard Debré ironically wrote in the JDD [ week-end publication ] : « It’s still a menial bout of flu ». Is the government doing too much ?

This virus isn’t so bad, it’s not a blind killer. The mortality rate, estimated today at around 2%, which is equivalent to that of any viral pneumonia found in hospital, will probably decrease once the cases that have not shown any symptoms are taken into account. Without being prescient, I doubt the Chinese virus will cause a very significant increase in pneumonia deaths, at least here in France.

But Didier Raoult did not just seriously underestimate the threat. This carried on after the initial coronavirus outbreak…

II. At the early stages of the collapse, what was Didier Raoult’s message ?

When the virus started to develop in France, he decided to publish a video on Youtube on February 25th (14 confirmed cases of Covid-19, 1 death in France that day); at first its tittle was : « Coronavirus : end of the Game !« , and aimed at promoting Chloroquine, with the helop of the Hospital of Marseilles (sourcearchive@aphm_actu) :

In this video, Raoult says several things:
  • « From all respiratory infections, it is probably the easiest to treat. »
  • « There’s no need to get excited [as the Chinese did] »;
  • « Be careful, there will soon be no more chloroquine in drugstores »: and this caused a stockout in drugstores.

In the days that followed, Raoult was forced to change the title of his video to: « Coronavirus: A way out of the crisis ?  » :

Then he went even further, bringing his message to the media, such as here in 20 Minutes [free daily newspaper] :

Coronavirus: « It would be a medical fault not to give chloroquine to treat the Chinese virus », according to Professor Didier Raoult

Didier Raoult: « I don’t give a damn about gossips, wherever they come from. […] When a drug has been shown to work on a hundred people while everyone’s losing their nerves, and there are idiots who say we’re not sure whether it works, I am not interested in what they are saying ! »

Are you going to use chloroquine at the IHU to treat coronavirus ?

« Chinese scientists are very serious people. They’re no fools, and they’ve shown that chloroquine works. It would honestly be a medical fault not to give chloroquine to treat the Chinese coronavirus.

Some people arrive here with a serious affection, and it has been shown that the only treatment for that affection is chloroquine. So to not give chloroquine, you have to be out of your mind!
So we are going to tell the minister that if people get here with the Chinese coronavirus, we are going to treat them with chloroquine, because it is the only treatment that has been shown to work.« 

Source : 20 minutes, Mathilde Ceilles, 26-02-2020

And on the same day, Mr Raoult gave an interview to La Marseillaise (daily paper), entitled: « Coronavirus is no more dangerous than a seasonal flu ». Once again, in view of the evidence, the title had to be changed and on March 18, 2020 it became « To fight the coronavirus, efficient diagnosis is necessary. » (source).

In this interview, he said :

Is the coronavirus 2019 more dangerous than the virus that causes an epidemic of seasonal flu ?

Didier Raoult: It is not.

According to you, what is the most appropriate therapeutic strategy to fight this virus ?

D.R. : Regarding vaccines, they are intended to prevent real diseases, those involving hundreds of thousands of cases. I’d rather expect from the Chinese that they start testing chloroquine on patients, as it is the simplest and least toxic treatment in the world, the efficiency of which has been proven in their laboratories.

The following interview with Raoult, on February 26th, is also worth mentioning. It was published just after all schools were shut in 3 Italian regions:

« You know, in Italy there are more deaths from scooter accidents than from the coronavirus. This psychosis and media frenzy come from a sensitivity of the human race to the risk of extinction. Anthropologically, there’s always a reason why we’re all going to die, each generation has its own fantasies about the disappearance of the human species.

Epidemics happen to be a part of the modern world, so there is inevitably some concern about it. Epidemics have always fascinated mankind, as evidenced by the tremendous success of the websites that mention and discuss them.

We have to show that we are responsible, medical teams have to play their role. We have to keep a cool head and not contribute to the general panic that is fed by hazardous communication or alarmist speeches.

De facto, if we look at the figures, on Monday 24 February 2020, there were only 500 new cases of coronavirus in the world and these figures do not justify such massive panic. Every year, in the world, there are a few dozens millions of deaths that are caused by viral respiratory infections, there will just be a few hundreds more.

If you consider new cases, the rate of new infection is below 1% right now, which is very low and suggests that the epidemic is coming to an end. »

Source : TourMag, 26-02-2020

III. Raoult was nevertheless rewarded by the Government

Although his remarks helped to put the threat into a relative perspective and demobilize the public, Didier Raoult was recruited as one of the 11 members of the Government’s Scientific Council on March 11, 2020 (source). It is worth recalling that it was this council that confirmed that there was no problem in organizing the local council elections …

On March 24th 2020, he announced that he would no longer participate in the Scientific Council – without resigning though. In fact, it was not surprising to see him in this position, as the President of the Scientific Council Jean-François Delfraissy also belongs to the Board of Directors of the IHU IM (Institut hospitalo-universitaire de Marseille)

To make it short, Didier Raoult is neither « rebellious » nor an « outsider » as some would have you believe.

IV. In the midst of the collapse, what is Didier Raoult’s message ?

Didier Raoult then carried out a chloroquine test on 26 people, and published the results in a very prestigious international peer-reviewed journal in a Youtube video on March16th (and in a publication on March 17th – source). His statements then became increasingly frequent following the experiment.

« Chloroquine cures Covid-19 »: Didier Raoult, the infectiologist who would have the cure for coronavirus

On the caveats raised about the methodology of his recent clinical trials: « It’s counterintuitive, but the smaller the sample size of a clinical test, the more significant its results are. The differences in a sample of 20 people can be more significant than in a sample of 10,000 people, so if you need such a sample, there’s a risk of being wrong. With 10,000 people, when the differences are small, sometimes they don’t exist. »

Source : Marianne, Etienne Campion, 19-03-2020

Coronavirus: « I’m not an outsider, I’m ahead of the game, » interview with Marseille professor Didier Raoult

627 dead people in one day and 40,000 cases of Covid-19 in Italy, we are no longer at the « menial bout of flu » (grippette) you were talking about a few weeks ago…

Prof. Didier Raoult : […] There are 2.6 million people dying of respiratory infections in the world each year. Can you imagine that the 5,000, 10,000 or even 100,000 more will change the statistics? …] But right now, we’re counting less than 500. We’ll see if we succeed in killing 10,000, but I doubt it. Right now we’re more likely to die from something other than Covid-19. …] For Italy, they were clamouring, I have received an analysis, it’s like elsewhere, it’s people over 75 years old.

[…] you’re consistently at odds with the flow of the mainstream speech…

Pr Didier Raoult: Just because there are a few people in Paris who think certain things doesn’t mean I’m against the trend. In my particular world, I’m a worldwide star, I’m not at all against the mainstream. I don’t give a damn what other people think. I’m not an outsider, I’m the one who’s the furthest ahead. I am not the weird one, it is people who are ignorant.

Source : La Provence, Alexandra Ducamp, 21-03-2020

EXCLUSIVE – Coronavirus: « We know how to cure the disease« , says infectiologist Didier Raoult

This may be a revolution in the progress of the Covid-19 pandemic: after six days of clinical testing on the intake of Plaquenil, one of the commercial names for chloroquine, only one fourth of the 24 test patients of Professor Didier Raoult of the IHU Méditerranée Infection in Marseille were still positive for the vir

Even better : « Combined with the use of antibiotics targeted against bacterial pneumonia (azythromycin), the treatment completely cured the subjects within a week, while 90% of the patients who did not take this treatment are still positive, » says the world’s most frequently mentioned infectious disease specialist.

Source : Les Echos, Paul Molga, 17-03-2020

and this again :

Exclusive Coronavirus « The only substance that is both effective and available is chloroquine ».

While the American president Donald Trump has just announced that he was going to distribute this anti-malarial treatment to combat the Covid-19 epidemic in the United States, its most ardent promoter in France, the microbiologist Didier Raoult, is reconsidering the concerns raised by this molecule in France.

The Marseille microbiologist Didier Raoult was one of the most ardent promoters in France, if not the only defender, of the use of chloroquine, an antimalarial treatment, to counter the Covid-19 epidemic. On Thursday 19, American President Donald Trump, speaking of initial « very promising » results, announced that he was going to « make this drug available almost immediately » in the United States, believing that this could « change the situation » in the face of the epidemic.

Source : Les Echos, Yann Verdo, 19-03-2020

[Video] Covid-19 Scientific Council Member Denounces Containment Ineffectiveness

For Professor Didier Raoult, Italy, France and Spain are following the wrong course by taking the path of total containment.

Source : Valeurs actuelles, 19-03-2020

V. Over 1,000 casualties: a perfect exact time to publish a book !

Right at the height of the epidemic, Didier Raoult has just announced that he is releasing a new book, which he wrote in the lapse of … one month (source) :

« Terrifying warnings of possible epidemics have proliferated in recent years. …] For all these diseases, mathematical models and projections have been made that predicted the deaths of millions of people. This has not been the case, apart from the flu epidemic, which has killed as an ordinary flu does. …] All the supposedly frightening potential epidemics that have clustered over the last 20 years have hardly exceeded 10,000 casualties…. Not very impressive. The total number of deaths caused in France over 20 years by all the above-mentioned diseases […] is ridiculous, compared to the figures announced by the whistleblowers. »

And so Didier Raoult is surfing on the current drama as he seeks to demobilize the population. But the worst is this sentence which is utterly untrue:

« The odds of the Chinese coronavirus changing the French or the world mortality statistics are zero.« 

You only have to consider the mortality of Bergamo in Italy to realize how much Didier Raoult’s words are lies here…

And thus, Didier Raoult has on several occasions contributed to putting the threat into a different perspective and reducing the involvement of the population in the midst of the coronavirus offensive. He therefore participated in our defeat in the fight against the spread of the virus…

VI. Didier Raoult: a researcher or a manager ?

But let’s go back over Didier Raoult’s career. As his Wikipedia page reminds us: « He is one of the most frequently quoted French researchers, with numerous scientific publications to his credit ».

Since 2012, Didier Raoult has been co-signing almost one article every working day: this means that he uses a fairly widespread, but large-scale practice: the « cuckoo strategy », where he co-signs practically every article of any of his (hundreds) of subordinates.

Didier Raoult thus has a very productivist vision as far as research is concerned, as we can see here in 2008 :

« We are 75% more productive than an Inserm laboratory, » Didier Raoult explained (Inserm is the only public research organization in France entirely dedicated to human health). With an annual budget of 10 million euros, the cost price of a publication in his unit does not exceed 80,000 euros compared to 200,000 € on average (for a publication with an impact of 3.5) in the public establishment.

« […] Under the pretext of being egalitarian, the French system claims to give as much to everyone. But research is a competition. Like high-level athletes, researchers must be objectively examined on an individual basis. […] This is the only possible alternative if we want to promote and fund the most effective and dynamic researchers. « [Les Echos, 10/29/2008]

VII. The IGAS’s [ General Inspection of Social Affairs] position regarding the management of the Marseilles IHU [Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire] by Didier Raoult

So, here we are, Raoult is the head of the University Hospital Institute of Marseille. He is both the Director of the Marseille Infection Foundation, which oversees the IHU IM, and also acts as its administrator (source):

IHU IM Organizational Chart

Didier Raoult has therefore been managing a huge budget (more than 150 million euros) for years and he manages almost 800 employees. (source 1, source 2).

The 2015 report of the IGAS is focused on the audit of the IHU of Marseille. It points out an incredible succession of problems in governance and basic breaches in ethics. We find sentences such as :
  • Both, the IHU governance and management are inadequate;
  • The way in which the Board of Directors operates is not satisfactory;
  • The directors of the foundation are personally very rarely present;
  • One may question the authority and independence of the Chairperson of the Governing Board vis-à-vis the Director, Professor Didier Raoult;
  • It is questionable whether the functions of Chair of the GC and head of a research unit can be held concurrently;
  • The combination of the functions of Treasurer and Director General of Public Assistance seems inappropriate;
  • The fact that the director (Didier Raoult) holds more than one position is contrary to the standard statutes of public utility foundations;
  • The Management Board acts as a chamber for registering the Director’s decisions;
The report then continues dealing this time with management:
  • The IHU management is jeopardizing the implementation of the project ;
  • There is a great lack of formality on the part of IHU officials;
  • A real IHU executive committee is lacking;
  • The exact responsibilities of department heads are not clear;
  • The management of the foundation is entirely under the leadership of Professor Didier Raoult, who operates in a vertical mode based on authority and not on cooperation and inclusion, with no delegation or almost none.
  • All decisions, be they scientific or non-scientific, in reality go back to Professor Didier Raoult who decides according to criteria that are not transparent;
  • The fact that all powers are concentrated in the hands of one person is blatantly in contradiction with the collaborative nature of the IHU;
  • Professor Raoult’s somewhat abrupt professional relations have led to controversy, including in public and in writing, with officials of the AP-HM authorities of the hospital of Marseille, doctors and researchers alike;
  • The administrative and financial framework of the foundation proves to be currently very unsatisfactory;
  • The management rationale for the Marseilles IHU is neither efficient nor operational enough to allow for the timely delivery of the expected outputs;
  • It has not been possible to compare the figures in the bidding documents with the budgetary and financial data available today.

Regarding his multiple functions, Didier answered this in an interview (source): « They’re wrong. […] I’m a director on a voluntary basis, so there’s no conflict of interest. We have checked with a specialised law firm« .

VIII. Weird  » scams  » at the IHU Marseille Infection

At the end of 2018, this astonishing affair came to be known :

The auditors of the French anti-corruption agency (AFA) were particularly interested in a short agreement signed between the CEO of the Institute for Research for Development (IRD) Jean-Paul Moatti and his wife, Yolande Obadia (president of the IHU IM foundation). What was at stake was a 300,000 euros check for the Mediterranean Infection Foundation, which she chairs. […] This agreement has all the appearance of a conflict of interest. The IRD intends to give 213,261 euros to the IHU’s main laboratory, the Urmite, hitherto headed by its director Didier Raoult. […]

From 2007 to 2010, […] the IRD had pledged to give 250,000 euros to the infectiopole project already led by Didier Raoult. […] In 2017, the IHU will only receive 50,000 euros per year. The agreement and the related rents therefore seem to fill the gap compared to previous years. [MarsActu, 10/2018]

IX. Suffering among Raoult’s teams

Back in April 2017, the CHSCT ([Committee on Health, Safety and Working Conditions) of the CNRS (National Committee of Scientific Research), Inserm, IRD (French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development), and Aix-Marseille University received an anonymous letter sent by employees of the Urmite (Research Unit on Emerging Infectious and Tropical Diseases), directed by Didier Raoult (source).

The latter were denouncing a « lack of recognition and consideration », contempt, macho talk, inappropriate attitudes, mismanagement and threats from the hierarchy (source). The ITAs (engineers, technicians, admnistratives) are « restricted to a role of executioners« , this was based on comments such as : « You are not here to think but to do what you are told to do ! »

As a response, the trade unions organised and informed the regulatory authorities, including INSERM on June 1st 2017. Didier Raoult read the letter from those 12 (ITAs) and learned that the scientific councils had given unfavourable recommendations concerning the labelling of his two daughter units. It should be pointed out that « the scientific content of the projects is being criticized in both cases and that this negative decision does not relate solely on the problems of staff suffering, far from it« . (source)

Retaliatory measures against the whistleblowers start on 8 June. The director addresses the general assembly to denounce the action of the 12 ITAs and announces that he would not leave it at that. Under these conditions, for many people, the fear of testifying is growing. (source)

An « intersyndicale » (all trade unions together) was then formed, and alerted the minister, specifying that the management was « in the process of excluding from the laboratory the whistleblower engineers it thought it had identified as being at the origin of the letter » (source).

On 7 July, an inspection of the Urmite by the CHSCT takes place (source + source). The individual interviews reveal that « this contempt [from the hierarchy] is manifested by shouting, bullying, name-calling, non-compliance with the most basic rules of health and safety. The staff, many of whom have a precarious statute and of foreign origin, live in fear« .

In an interview with the AEF (expert information agency) [source], Didier Raoult commented on this grim story:

« As far as I know, this is not the kind of thing that happens, other than a complaint, a love affair that went wrong…. « It’s delirious, … we offer exceptional living conditions ». Didier Raoult deplores the behaviour of « bitter people » and « five or six jealous grumblers« , before praising the exceptional nature of the research carried out within the company: « Science, at the level at which I perform it, is high-level competition. There are tensions when you discover it, that’s the essence of excellence. »

The report from the CHSCT is an icy narrative [source] :

« Didier Raoult […] values you more or less depending on your status. And more or less according to whether you’re a man or a woman. […] I’ve often seen women leave in tears. »

« He is a manipulator, and he handles the more submissive or long-toothed as best he can according to the old carrot-and-stick technique. … This was achieved putting them on the sidelines for several months« .

The staff « was finding it very hard to cope with the pressure [Didier Raoult] was putting on them to get results. …] Students whose work was not convincing were humiliated by the research supervisors, with Raoult in the lead.

The report also describes a number of serious shortcomings in the organisation of the laboratory, including non-compliance with « basic » health and safety rules. This also applies to the specific containment rules associated with each type of micro-organism according to their hazardousness. Here again, not all the existing standards are being respected [source].

X. #ThemToo

In October 2017, following the CHSCT’s visit to the research unit headed by Didier Raoult, four complaints were filed for sexual harassment (source). The trade unions had been informed that at least six women, mostly of foreign nationality, had for several years been victims of acts that could be described as sexual harassment and sexual assault at the University Hospital Institute (IHU).

At the time, Didier Raoult had confirmed that he had been aware of this as early as 2015 and had not informed the President of the University. One can quote the threats of sacking or interruption of scholarship of the alleged victims, or even a quote that would have been commonplace for a researcher: « It’s 4 o’clock, it’s time for my blowjob, who’s gonna do it today? « (source).

At the time, the CGT [trase union] was wondering (source) :

How is it possible that alleged acts of sexual harassment brought to the attention of the unit director (Didier Raoult) could remain without official denunciation by the unit management for two years ? How can it be considered normal for a person responsible for the staff under his direction, who is also a physician, to keep alleged victims in contact with their alleged aggressor for two years? …] How can it be understood that, in two years time, a unit director has never taken the time to meet a student who has declared having been assaulted on the premises of his unit by a research director under his direction ? [CGT, 11/23/17]

France 3 [public local TV channel] had reported on the case when questioning Didier Raoult in relation to the serious accusations against his collaborators. According to him, « if 10 or 12 individuals are dissatisfied out of 770, it’s not a surprise… They want to kill the IHU […] (source).

XI. Didier Raoult a global warming denier

Finally, let us remind you that Didier Raoult has been campaigning in another field for several years now: denouncing the « absurdity » of global warming forecast such as here in 2013 (source):

In June 2014, Didier Raoult also declared: « After a significant thermal surge in the 1990s, the Earth has globally stopped warming up since 1998. « Global warming is doubtful and mankind’s responsibility is questionable » (source)!

In conclusion

It seems that Didier Raoult has an exaggerated aura since he has many failures to his credit, in the various fields we have just analysed. Far from being an isolated researcher, we can see that this « Mandarin à la française » benefits from powerful support, which apparently prevented him from being sanctioned as a manager when necessary. As a « General of Health » who has contributed on several occasions to reducing the mobilization of the population in the midst of the coronavirus offensive, he participated in our defeat in the fight against the spreading of the virus. (Analogy with the chinese mandarins. Idea of a state aristocracy: the mandarins would try to keep the control of a management qualified as « patrimonial » of the organization of care.)

Olivier Berruyer

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