Marseille seeks to 'turn page' on controversial Covid doctor

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French scientist Didier Raoult championed the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a Covid treatment -- studies have shown it is not effective
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The head of the hospital system in the French city of Marseille said Thursday it was time to find a successor to the head of its infectious disease department who won global fame at the height of the pandemic due to his controversial pronouncements on Covid-19.

Didier Raoult championed the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment at a time when the method was also being touted without evidence by former US Donald Trump and his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro.

But while seen as a folk hero by some in the southern French city which prides itself on its independence from Parisian orthodoxy, he was also accused by peers of spreading false information about the benefits of the drug.

Studies have found that hydroxychloroquine does not work against the coronavirus.

A familiar figure on French TV with his shoulder-length blond hair and grey beard, Raoult was also visited for advice by French President Emmanuel Macron in April 2020 as the pandemic was in full swing.

But the head of Marseille's hospital system, Francois Cremieux, told AFP that he and other senior regional medical executives would launch a procedure in September to find a successor to the 69-year-old scientist.

"There is a need to turn a page and organise the future of the (infectious disease department) for the next 20 years. We must move quickly and launch the process in autumn to have a successful outcome between the end of the year and the beginning of 2022," Cremieux also told the Le Monde newspaper.

He did not comment further to AFP but confirmed the remarks he made to Le Monde.

The move means that if Raoult asks for an extension beyond his retirement age -- which according to the Marseille hospital system he has done -- it will be refused.

Raoult's notoriety has only increased in recent weeks after he posted a video where he appeared to cast doubt on the efficacity of vaccines as a weapon in the pandemic, saying that global protection from vaccination was "modest".

Professor Jean-Luc Jouve, head of the city's medical commission, accused Raoult of giving "grist to the mill of conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers", saying that some 95 percent of Covid patients in intensive care in French hospitals were unvaccinated.

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