COVID-19 misinformation is on a rampage. As a result, people are resorting to the drug ivermectin for COVID-19 without taking into consideration the actual consequences of its dangers, leading to 88,000 human formulations of ivermectin prescriptions in comparison to the 3,600 before the pandemic. People should steer clear of taking the drug ivermectin as treatment for COVID-19.
In 1996 an antiparasitic drug ivermectin was approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to treat two specific conditions: intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis, caused by parasitic worms. However, not only has the FDA not authorized ivermectin for COVID-19 on people and animals, but there isn’t even evidence that it’s safe and effective for treating the virus. More specifically, the FDA has advised to not use any drugs or products intended for animals, and such use can be potentially dangerous for humans. Misinformation on the use of ivermectin should be dealt with in any way possible by the government or social media agencies to avoid the harm it may pose to the user and how the use of ivermectin may spread anecdotally.
Social media acts as the forefront for disseminating information and thus an important agent of COVID-19 misinformation. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a growing use of ivermectin, fueled in large part by right-wing circles and media personalities like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, social media groups like Ivermectin vs. Covid and inflammatory opinions that diverge from the general medical consensus. For instance, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) supported the use of ivermectin at a Texas Youth Summit, which did not help in combating misinformation. At the same time, he raised concerns about COVID-19 vaccines. He said, “the trouble is, these vaccines, they were only approved for emergency use. Now you have Pfizer that’s been approved, but there’s so much long term that they don’t know.” It is unacceptable how media personalities and government officials promote misleading information without any accountability.
Poison control centers are being bombarded with calls regarding ivermectin overdose. The Texas Poison Control Center received an increase of 150% of calls related to ivermectin exposure from July to August. In the month of August, of the 21 people who called the Oregon Poison Center, six were hospitalized for toxic effects from ivermectin use. Patients have experienced nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and hypotension. This is unacceptable. People are paying the price because of inaccurate information
Misinformation is driving the increased usage of ivermectin among the general population globally. The Czech Republic allows it off label use and Slovakia has seen imports of thousands of doses. Misinformation coupled with the helplessness over the rising number of cases have forced people in desperation to resort to ivermectin.
The BMJ, a medical journal, has pointed out that the evidence and reviews from many studies that claim to support the use of ivermectin have been questionable because these studies do not follow the process that ensures quality standards in publication. The results of other ivermectin and COVID-19 studies have also been retracted due to questionable methodologies such as results being made public with no peer review or editorial process. The writing is on the wall: there is no scientific evidence that suggests that ivermectin can be used for prevention or treatment for COVID-19. Government agencies and the general public should realize that.
The government and social media agents should do more in combating misinformation on ivermectin and other COVID-19 related matters. Government officials should take responsibility for the information they present to their audience, and should be held accountable for any misleading information. Reliable information from credible sources should be pushed by social media giants like Facebook and government websites for the general public. We need to do more to quell misinformation. Students at Emory can refer to University sources and follow Emory’s guidelines on COVID-19 related matters and stay away from other COVID-19 or ivermectin sources found online that are not fact checked. Students and staff alike should be wary of any COVID-19 information from sources that are not Emory University, the FDA or otherwise scientific and fact-checked. The University should raise awareness on this issue and warn students against the use of ivermectin for treating COVID-19 and misinformation in general.
Muhammad Haider Shahid (23C) is from Seattle, WA.