Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, who touted unconventional COVID treatment, dies at 49

American family physician Dr. Vladimir “Zev” Zelenko, who rose to fame during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic by promoting an unconventional treatment for the virus, died on Thursday after battling cancer for several years. He was 49.

Zelenko, an Orthodox Jew born in Kyiv, moved to the United States with his family at the age of three, settling in Brooklyn, New York City. He received his medical degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 2000.

He had served as the community doctor of Kiryas Joel, a town north of New York City, for nearly two decades, and was regarded by many as a beloved member of the community.

In May 2020, however, he said he was leaving the Kiryas Joel community, where he had practiced medicine for years, following a fall-out with community leaders who publicly spoke out about his approach to the pandemic.

Zelenko had developed the “Zelenko Protocol,” an experimental treatment for COVID-19 — consisting of the anti-malarial medication hydroxychloroquine, the antibiotic azithromycin, and zinc sulfate — and claimed to have successfully treated hundreds of patients using the three-drug combination over the course of five days.

His treatment was even endorsed by then-president Donald Trump, who said in May 2020 that he had started taking hydroxychloroquine against the coronavirus after Zelenko had brought it to his attention.

And while the effectiveness of Zelenko’s treatment was largely refuted by the medical community, many still claim to have been treated and cured by the Jewish physician.

“Dr. Zelenko was a physician, scientist, and activist for medical rights who touched the lives of millions of people. Some were saved by his role as a doctor, and even more were inspired by his words,” read a statement issued by Zelenko Labs, an organization established by Zelensko to promote his medical treatments.

“It is with immense sorrow that we announce the passing of our founder Dr. Vladimir “Zev” Zelenko,” the statement added.

Zelenko is survived by his wife and eight children.

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