The unproven claim that an antimalarial drug can cure coronavirus – called a ‘game-changer’ and a ‘gift from God’ by Donald Trump – has been promoted by a crypto-currency lawyer who has made a string of bogus claims, DailyMail.com can reveal.
Gregory Rigano made a series of Fox News and conservative and Christian radio appearances to tout the idea that chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine ‘cures’ conronavirus.
The anti-malaria drug is now the subject of series of clinical trials, including in New York, where the state received 10,000 doses.
It has been praised by Trump repeatedly – but the first time he did, at the White House last Friday, epidemiologist Tony Fauci stepped in to warn it was not scientifically proven to be effective and safe.
Trump amplified the case for the drug again on Twitter Monday amid apparent public tensions with Fauci.
Now a DailyMail.com investigation reveals how:
DailyMail.com has made repeated attempts to contact Rigano, a 34-year-old lawyer from Melville, Long Island, who lists being an Eagle Scout on his resume.
He uses his parents’ home as his address on public documents.
Rigano first touted the use of chloroquine on Monday March 13, publishing a document on Google which was presented to look like a scientific paper, but which is not and which Google has now removed because it is in violation of its terms of service.
It was written by Rigano and by James Todaro, a former ophthalmologist in Dearborn, Michigan, turned cryptocurrency investor.
It claimed to be ‘in consultation with Stanford University School of Medicine, UAB [University of Alabama at Birmingham] School of Medicine, and National Academy of Science researchers.’
Rigano used a Johns Hopkins email address in the document, although his own LinkedIn profile says he is a student, not a member of faculty there. DailyMail.com has reached out to the college to check his enrollment status.
The text was in the format which a scientific paper would follow, and included drawings of the structure of the chemical structure of chloroquine.
At the bottom of the text it says: ‘Special thanks to Stanford University School of Medicine, SPARK Translational Research Program, Steve Schow, PhD, The Lab of Louise T. Chow, PhD and Thomas R. Broker, PhD, Bruce Bloom DDS, JD of HealX and Adrian Bye.’
However DailyMail.com can disclose that the paper was not a scientific one – and that all of the academics and institutions named in it have asked to be disassociated from it.
They include Stanford University, which said it and its SPARK unit asked to be removed from the document.
Rigano has also described himself as an ‘advisor’ to Stanford School of Medicine.
But Julie Greicius, senior director of external communications at Stanford said: ‘Stanford Medicine, including SPARK, was not involved in the creation of the Google document, and we requested that the author remove all references to us.
‘In addition, Gregory Rigano is not an advisor with Stanford School of Medicine and no one at Stanford was involved in the study.’
When asked if Professor Steve Schow, a Stanford adjunct professor in chemical systems biology, who was thanked in the document, had any involvement, Greicuis said no.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham also said it had no involvement in the Google document.
Prof Broker, who the document named, asked for his name to be removed, while the university’s public relations manager Bob Shepard added that Dr. Chow, a Nobel-prize winner mentioned in the acknowledgments, was no part of the study.
‘No one at UAB has any connection to this paper,’ Shepard said.
Shepard said that Broker ‘had previously done research into chloroquine as a possible therapy for human papillomavirus’ which is more commonly known as HPV.
Shepard said: ‘He had some contact with one of the authors of that paper at that time. He had no involvement with the work on coronavirus and is not affiliated with that research in any way.’
But the removal of the document was long after it was tweeted by Elon Musk on Monday March 16.
Later that day he started a week as a serial guest on Fox News’ opinion shows and on Fox Business Network.
He appeared on Laura Ingraham’s The Ingraham Angle on Monday 16, a few hours after Musk tweeted it was ‘maybe worth considering.’ He was presented as a co-author of the ‘study’ into the drug.
He claimed that a ’30-patient controlled study’ had cleared patients taking hydroxychloroquine and claimed ‘we have strong reason to believe a preventative dose’ would get rid of the virus completely.
Ingraham called it a ‘game-changer,’ a phrase which was used by Trump later in the week.
On Wednesday 17, the following morning, he appeared on Christian Outlook with Kevin McCulloch. It was turned into a podcast version called ‘The Cure for COVID-19 Has Been Found,’ and saw Rigano boast about being tweeted by Musk.
Rigano said in the interview that it was 12 hours till the release of the first ‘controlled’ study into chloroquine and claimed to have a ‘team’ standing by. He also claimed medical staff were going to take it as a preventative measure as part of a trial.
Then Rigano appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight on Thursday 18. He was presented as a ‘Stanford University Medical School adviser.’
In his interview with Carlson, Rigano praised Trump for cutting ‘red tape at the FDA.’
Rigano said: ‘I’m here to report that as of this morning a well-controled peer reviewed study carried out by the most eminent infectious diseases specialist in the world,’ he said, claiming it ‘showed a 100 percent cure rate against coronavirus.’
Carlson said: ‘It’s very unusual for any study of anything to produce results of 100 percent, that’s remarkable or am I missing something?’
In response Rigano compared the effect of chloroquine to a breakthrough which allows Hepatitis C to be ‘cured’ by anit-virals.
‘To be able to cure a virus was said to be mathematically impossible and the first company that did was a small biotech…in the cure to hepatitis C,’ Rigano said.
‘What we’re here to announce is the second cure to a virus of all time.’
The following morning, March 19, he appeared on The Glenn Beck Program, the conservative host’s syndicated show, to again tout his claim of a ‘well-controlled, peer-reviewed clinical study,’ with a ‘100 per cent cure rate.’
Asked ‘are you talking to the White House,’ he boasted contradictorily: ‘We have a direct line to them and are waiting for them to reach out.’
‘We know that President Trump received our “white paper” within 24 hours after it being published. Dr. Fauci is doing an excellent job and we know they will make the right decision,’ he said.
Rigano then appeared on Fox Business Network’s Varney & Co later in the morning, and was again presented as an ‘adviser’ to Stanford, which he is not.
He told Stuart Varney that Trump ‘has the authority to authorize the use of hydoxychloroquine against coronavirus immediately.’
Grigano claimed that ‘100 per cent of patients were cured within six days,’ prompting Varney to call it a ‘cure.’
Varney called him ‘doctor’ three times – which he is not, and Rigano did not correct him.
And at 11.30am that day, Rigano’s initiative gained its biggest public reward, when Trump used a White House briefing to tout it for the first time, claiming that its use had been ‘approved.’
That was walked back by the FDA administrator at the same briefing, but on Friday it became the subject of a heated back and forth with reporters as Trump was asked about giving ‘false hope.’
Asked by a reporter about research into the use of the drug, Fauci said: ‘The information you’re referring to is anecdotal, it was not done in a controlled trial so you can’t make a definitive statement about it.’
At this point Trump interjected: ‘I’m probably more of a fan [of chloroquine] than maybe anybody but let’s see what happens.
‘We understand what the doctor said, it’s 100 per cent correct, it’s early but I’ve seen things that are impressive, we’re going to know soon, including safety.
‘This has been prescribed for many years to combat malaria, it’s a strong drug.’
In a Tweet on Saturday he went further and said: ‘HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine…
‘Hopefully they will BOTH (H works better with A, International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents) be put in use IMMEDIATELY. PEOPLE ARE DYING, MOVE FAST, and GOD BLESS EVERYONE!’
And on Monday Trump tweeted another link to a video of Rigano’s interview with Carlson.
Rigano has referred repeatedly to a study, carried out in Marseille, in the south of France, by Didier Raoult, an infectious disease specialist at l’Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire Méditerranée Infection.
But the French study touted by Rigano was not in line with his claims.
Raoult used both hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, the antibiotic, which Rigano did not mention.
The anecdotal study said that 95 percent of patients showed no signs of COVID-19 after six days when they took the combination of the drugs, not 100 percent.
Professor Gilles Pialoux, an infectious disease specialist at Tenon Hospital in France, told Medscape, the medical news site: ‘The idea is interesting but we need large, randomized, controlled trials.’
In fact it showed that of the 26 in the trial, 20 completed it, one left hospital before it ended, one was intolerant of the drug and three moved from general care to ICU – and one died.
The rates of death and movement to ICU are higher than for normal coronavirus patients, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta pointed out.
Dr Scott Gottlieb, Trump’s former FDA administrator, told CBS’ Face the Nation that the trial was far too small to be useful and that it traced the presence of the virus in the upper nasal passages, not the clinical outcome.
Rigano’s involvement is surprising as background is working as a lawyer at his family’s firm, Rigano LLC, in Melville on Long Island, New York.
The 34-year-old appears on public records at the same home as his father James, 67, who runs the law firm, and his mother Dorothy, 65.
When DailyMail.com called the family home an older woman said: ‘He’s not here at the moment’ and took a message.
In his biography, repeated on a string of websites, Rigano claims to have ‘provided counsel to over $1 billion in transaction volume at global scale’.
On his LinkedIn page he says he is the inventor of IKU, a blockchain platform for financing pharmaceutical research. IKU’s Facebook page says it was set up to ‘cheat death.’
And a separate website for IKU has a list of highly ambitious projects such as ‘End Alzheimer’s, Stop neurodegeneration’ for which he is seeking funding of less than $1m.
Another is called ‘It’s Time to Live Forever’ and is demanding less than $100m – the website says this one is ‘underway’.
On February 11 this year, just as the coronavirus outbreak was becoming a crisis, he set up a company called Jonas Research LLC in Albany, New York.
Rigano has appeared as a speaker at tech conferences where he has been described as a ‘corporate tech lawyer with a deep interest in cryptocurrencies and intellectual property’.
He has offered classes about blockchain technology and hosted meetups about including one which said in its description: ‘Big Pharma has given up on the search to cure Alzheimer’s. But we don’t have to!’
Rigano and Raoult are now looking to do their own clinical trial and have enlisted the help of a Dr Chandra Duggirala.
He is a serial entrepreneur based in California whose previous projects include tryfuel.com which he describes as a ‘personalized nutrition engine’.
In another peculiar twist, among the other people thanked in the Google document was Adrian Bye who runs a networking company in China.
On his website he says that he grew up in Australia and currently lives in a ‘sacred daoist mountain known as Wudang Mountain’ in central China.
On his personal website there is no mention of any medical or scientific qualifications however he did a YouTube interview with fringe Canadian commentator Jean-François Gariépy, whose previous guests include white supremacist David Duke.
DailyMail.com reached out to Rigano for comment via various email accounts, social media and by phone but did not hear back.
Raoult did not respond to questions via email, nor did Fox News.