Vladimir Zelenko, a self-described “easy nation physician” from upstate New York who rocketed to prominence within the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic when his controversial therapy for the coronavirus gained White Home assist, died on Thursday in Dallas. He was 48.
His spouse, Rinat Zelenko, stated he died of lung most cancers at a hospital the place he was receiving therapy.
Till early 2020, Dr. Zelenko, who was additionally identified by his Hebrew identify, Zev, spent his days caring for sufferers in and round Kiryas Joel, a village of about 35,000 Hasidic Jews roughly an hour northwest of New York Metropolis.
Like many well being care suppliers, he scrambled when the coronavirus started to appear in his group. Inside weeks he had landed on what he insisted was an efficient remedy: a three-drug cocktail of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, the antibiotic azithromycin and zinc sulfate.
He was not the primary doctor to advertise hydroxychloroquine. However he started to attract nationwide consideration on March 21 — two days after President Donald J. Trump first talked about the drug in a press briefing — when Dr. Zelenko posted a video to YouTube and Fb during which he claimed a one hundred pc success fee with the therapy. He implored Mr. Trump to undertake it.
A day later, Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of employees, reached out to Dr. Zelenko for extra info. So did talk-show bookers. Over the subsequent week Dr. Zelenko made the rounds on conservative media, talking on podcasts hosted by Steve Bannon and Rudolph W. Giuliani. Sean Hannity of Fox Information touted his analysis throughout an interview with Vice President Mike Pence.
“On the time, it was a brand-new discovering, and I seen it like a commander within the battlefield,” Dr. Zelenko advised The New York Occasions. “I noticed I wanted to talk to the five-star common.”
On March 28, the Meals and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization to docs to prescribe hydroxychloroquine and one other antimalarial drug, chloroquine, to deal with Covid. Mr. Trump referred to as the therapy “very efficient” and presumably “the most important recreation changer within the historical past of drugs.”
However, as fellow medical professionals started to level out, Dr. Zelenko had solely his personal anecdotal proof to assist his case, and what little analysis had been performed painted a blended image.
Nonetheless, he turned one thing of a people hero on the suitable, somebody who provided not simply hope amid the pandemic but additionally an alternative choice to the medical institution and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the Nationwide Institute of Allergy and Infectious Illnesses, who insisted that months of analysis can be wanted to seek out an efficient therapy.
Dr. Zelenko continued to textual content and communicate with Mr. Meadows, Mr. Giuliani and a number of other members of Congress. However he clashed with leaders in Kiryas Joel, who stated that his discuss of treating tons of of Covid sufferers seemed that the group was overwhelmed by Covid, doubtlessly stoking antisemitism.
Over the subsequent few months, researchers solid additional doubt on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine. A examine revealed in The New England Journal of Medication discovered no profit from the therapy, and different research highlighted a danger of harmful coronary heart arrhythmias in some sufferers.
These outcomes and others led the F.D.A. to revoke its emergency authorization on June 15, 2020.
A quiet, unassuming man, Dr. Zelenko appeared unprepared for the eye he acquired, which included harassing cellphone calls and even loss of life threats. In Could 2020, a federal prosecutor opened an investigation into whether or not he had falsely claimed F.D.A. approval for his analysis.
That very same month, Dr. Zelenko introduced in a video that he was closing his observe and leaving the Kiryas Joel group. He accused a number of of its leaders of instigating a marketing campaign in opposition to him.
After the F.D.A. rescinded its approval of hydroxychloroquine as a Covid therapy, he based an organization, Zelenko Labs, to advertise different nonconventional therapies for the illness, together with nutritional vitamins and quercetin, an anti-inflammatory drug.
And whereas he claimed to be apolitical, he embraced the picture of a sufferer of the institution. He based a nonprofit, the Zelenko Freedom Basis, to press his case. In December 2020, Twitter suspended his account, stating that it had violated requirements prohibiting “platform manipulation and spam.”
Dr. Zelenko was born on Nov. 27, 1973, in Kyiv, Ukraine, and immigrated to the US along with his household when he was 3, settling within the Sheepshead Bay part of Brooklyn.
His father, Alex, drove a taxi, and his mom, Larisa (Portnoy) Zelenko, labored in a fur manufacturing unit and later, after finding out pc programming, for Morgan Stanley.
In a memoir, “Metamorphosis” (2018), Dr. Zelenko wrote that he grew up nonreligious and entered Hofstra College as an avowed atheist.
“I loved debating with folks and proving to them that G-d didn’t exist,” he wrote. “I studied philosophy and was drawn to nihilistic thinkers equivalent to Sartre and Nietzsche.”
However after a visit to Israel, he started to alter his thoughts. He gravitated towards Orthodox Judaism, and specifically the Chabad-Lubavitch motion.
He graduated from Hofstra in 1995 with a level in chemistry, and he acquired his medical diploma from the State College of New York at Buffalo in 2000. After returning to Brooklyn for his residency, he moved to Monroe, a city that neighbors Kiryas Joel, in 2004.
Dr. Zelenko spent three years working for Ezras Choilim, a medical heart in Monroe, and advising the native Hatzolah ambulance service. He opened his personal observe in 2007, with places of work in Monroe and Monsey, one other upstate city with a big Orthodox Jewish inhabitants.
In 2018, docs discovered a uncommon type of most cancers in his chest and, in hopes of treating it, eliminated his proper lung.
Dr. Zelenko’s first marriage resulted in divorce. Alongside along with his second spouse, he’s survived by their two kids, Shira and Liba; six kids from his first marriage, Levi Yitzchok, Esther Tova, Eta Devorah, Nochum Dovid, Shmuel Nosson Yaakov and Menachem Mendel; his mother and father; and a brother, Ephraim.