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The renowned French scientist and virologist Didier Raoult -- who promoted the hydroxychloroquine drug -- could lose his post as head of Marseille's infectious diseases institute after the head of the city’s hospital system said it was time to find a successor.
Didier Raoult promoted the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a cheap treatment for Covid-19 at a time when the method was also being advocated without evidence by former US president Donald Trump and his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro.
Several studies, including one by the World Health Organization, have found hydroxychloroquine ineffective in treating Covid-19.
France banned use of the drug in May 2020.
Raoult heads up the infectious diseases institute (IHU) at Marseille University Hospital whose clinical studies are currently being investigated by the French medicines agency.
He is also a researcher and medical practitioner at the University of Aix-Marseille but has hit retirement age.
Professor Jean-Luc Jouve, head of the city's medical commission, told French daily Le Monde on Thursday that 69-year-old Raoult had requested to continue in his post at the hospital on a part-time basis, but that his proposal would not be accepted.
Francois Cremieux, the head of Marseille's hospital system, told the newspaper that it was not reasonable for the virologist to carry on at the IHU once he is no longer conducting university research.
He and other senior regional medical executives are to 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 IHU for the next 20 years," Cremieux said.
Raoult has cultivated an anti-establishment persona and is seen as a local hero by some in the southern French city of Marseille which prides itself on its independence from Parisian orthodoxy.
The hashtag #TouchePasARaoult (Hands off Raoult) has been trending on Twitter.
The virologist has strong support among opponents of France's health pass, notably hard-right politician Florian Philippot who has launched a petition in his support.
Raoult has released videos on the IHU's YouTube channel throughout the pandemic, picking up more than half a million subscribers. One where he discusses the resurgence of the epidemic among vaccinated people has been viewed three million times.
While he has stated his support for the "systematic vaccination of healthworkers", one of his recent videos appeared to cast doubt on the efficacy of vaccination as a weapon to fight the pandemic. "While Iceland has vaccinated more than any other developed country, it now has more infections than ever," he said.
However he failed to mention that having vaccinated more than 90 percent of its population (356,991 in 2019), just 7 Covid patients are currently in ICUs in Iceland and 30 people have died from Covid, according to the country's official figures.
Jean-Luc Jouve said the virologist was giving "grist to the mill of conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers" noting that some 95 percent of Covid patients in intensive care in French hospitals were not vaccinated.