Image Credits: FDA.

Way back on August 21, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tried a little humor in an attempt to convince people not to use Ivermectin as a “treatment” for or prophylactic against COVID-19. The Tweet (below) got a lot of attention, and that hopefully increased how many folks actually clicked on the link that explained why taking powerful deworming medication intended for enormous animals is a very shitty idea.

Some of their key points are worth repeating here.

  1. Humans use Ivermectin tablets to treat parasitic worms and there’s a topical application approved for treating head lice and skin conditions like rosacea. It’s a not an anti-viral drug, and COVID-19 is a virus.
  2. When you go to the tractor store to buy Ivermectin, you’re getting a drug intended for an animal that weighs a ton or more. It also includes inactive ingredients that may not have been vetted by the FDA for use in humans, especially in these quantities. This can seriously fuck you up.
  3. You don’t want to overdose on this shit because the active ingredient alone can cause a bunch of problems including “seizures, coma and even death.”
  4. You are not a horse.
  5. You are not a cow.
  6. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.

It was a pretty clear and straightforward message from the FDA, but it seems not to reached everyone. Dr. Jason McElyea is a doctor in rural southeastern Oklahoma. He says that the local hospitals are so full of patients who’ve overdosed on Ivermectin that there are no beds or ambulances available to serve anyone else, including gunshot victims.

He goes on to explain that people in his community don’t fear Ivermectin because they’re been around it their whole lives.

“Growing up in a small town, rural area, we’ve all accidentally been exposed to ivermectin at some time. So, it’s something people are familiar with. Because of those accidental sticks, when trying to inoculate cattle, they’re less afraid of it,” he said.

Now, the rural patients are going into their local agricultural or tractor supply store, ignoring the warning signs surrounding the products, and figuring out a dosage themselves.

“Some people taking inappropriate doses have actually put themselves in worse conditions than if they’d caught COVID,” said the doctor.

He’s seen at least one patient who went blind.

Assuming Dr. McElyea’s understanding is correct, locals are taking a medication they give to their cattle instead of a vaccine because one is known to them and the other is not. But that’s a partial explanation at best. It’s not just trust in the product that’s at play here. First, someone they trust had to tell them not to take the vaccine and then someone they trust had to tell them to take Ivermectin instead.

It goes without saying that another requirement is that they begin with a healthy distrust of government agencies like the FDA, so their expert advice is heavily discounted.

It should be acknowledged that there’s a difference between taking an unproven drug to prevent a disease and taking one after you already have the disease. In the latter case, at least with COVID-19, once you’re sick it’s too late to take the vaccine so it might be rational to attempt something a little risky. You definitely want to make a better choice than cattle dewormers, though. Back in May, the FDA approved the use of monoclonal antibodies, and that’s definitely a better way to go. In fact, there appears to be no risk associated with this treatment.

With vaccines readily available and free, the use of Ivermectin as a preventative measure makes zero sense. The vaccines have been used on over three billion people. You might feel horribly sick for a couple of days, but we have a big enough sample to know that you won’t become magnetic and are highly unlikely to suffer any serious or lasting health complications.

In December 2020, members of the Frontline COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) floated Ivermectin as a COVID-19 prophylaxis and treatment in a press conference and subsequent congressional testimony before Sen. Ron Johnson’s Homeland Security committee. It’s important to note that it was part of a cocktail of drugs they recommended: “I-MASK+ protocol, which focuses on ivermectin, but also includes vitamins C and D, quercetin, zinc, and melatonin for prophylaxis, and adding aspirin.” The dose was controlled and in some cases ramped up for certain outpatient treatments.

At the time, vaccines were not approved for the broad public. Once they became available, the calculus changed. For example, FLCCC co-founder Dr. Paul Marik–chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk–was first in line to get vaccinated in January 2021 when it became available for medical workers.

“It angers me, when I hear that [COVID-19 is] a conspiracy, that this virus doesn’t exist, that there aren’t that many deaths,” he added. “You have to come to the ICU and see that people are dying to realize this is no hoax, this is real.”

Marik finds it particularly disappointing that his work has been misinterpreted as potentially undermining vaccination.

“That’s complete nonsense,” he said. “I was vaccinated yesterday and I believe this is a bridge to vaccination,” noting that slow vaccine roll-outs, vaccine hesitancy, and vaccine quality will likely mean the world will be dealing with COVID-19 for a long time to come.

“We need to do something in the meantime,” he said.

Another original FLCCC member, Dr. Pierre Kory, remains a vocal proponent of Ivermectin but he’s about lost his mind with people taking horse doses from their local tractor supply.

Kory claims to be distraught that his organisation’s protocols have been misconstrued — ”I am literally deteriorating watching what’s happening,” he told HuffPost. But he but feels the FDA’s failure to approve the use of ivermectin for Covid is what’s driving the hysteria, not the FLCCC protocols.

“We don’t need their effing approval to prescribe during Covid. It’s called off-label use,” he said. “And now by saying this, you’re injecting the fucking idea of taking animal ivermectin into the population? Now more people are going to run at it. And I’m sorry, but I am not responsible for this fucking insanity. And I can’t correct it.”

Dr. Eric Osgood, a New Jersey-based hospitalist, is a former member of FLCCC who thought Ivermectin had promise and was worth trying on patients who would otherwise die.

Osgood called himself and Kory “kindred spirits” and, after their first conversation, felt, “If we found out in a year that this worked, that would be quite a tragedy. You don’t want to leave people to die when you could’ve done something that was very safe.” So he joined up with the alliance and began prescribing ivermectin to his patients who were hospitalised with severe Covid cases, knowing it could be months until a vaccine was widely available.

In his mind, once every American had access to the jab, ivermectin would take a backseat in the FLCCC guidance. He was wrong…

…But nearly a year after ivermectin’s introduction into the Covid conversation in the US, and with vaccines now readily available to all who seek them, doctors like Osgood…see it as unconscionable that the FLCCC hasn’t changed course. That was the final straw for Osgood, leading to his departure from the organisation in late August.

“[Ivermectin] shouldn’t have been promoted as a vaccine alternative or a miracle cure,” he said. “People are drinking sheep drench! If that’s not a call to use your clout and influence to say, ‘Enough is enough! Get your shots!’ then I just don’t know.”

Along the way, the drug has been adopted by the far right and promoted on Fox News by personalities like Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson. These are presumably the voices that people in rural southeastern Oklahoma trust, but it’s landing them in the hospital and destroying their emergency health system.

They won’t listen when the FDA tells them they’re not a cow or horse. Look how that’s working out for them.

Meanwhile, with some more study, it turns out that even when used at appropriate doses designed for human consumption, the drug simply doesn’t help.

A recent review of 14 ivermectin studies, with more than 1,600 participants, concluded that none provided evidence of the drug’s ability to prevent Covid, improve patient conditions or reduce mortality. Another 31 studies are still underway to test the drug.

It’s not a useful treatment, and anyone who is still pushing it is completely irresponsible.

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