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The myth of miracle ivermectin – a dossier on false hope

Drugs that have not been approved by a scientific community yet, or have been clearly rejected appear as a magical elixir of life to all zealous coronaskeptics. Following the footsteps of forged and sloppy studies, backed by media orchestration and modern alchemists, the anti-parasite drug, primarily meant for animals, emerged as the alternative solution for ending the pandemic. People around the world asking the vet to prescribe them the anti-Covid drug are not insane – they act like that because someone told them so. One of the most dangerous things has sneaked among the vaccine skeptics – false hope.

Did you give up? It has been almost two years since we became perpetually perplexed. *I got vaccinated, and for those who refuse, I cannot make them, to hell with everything!*

As we know, many did not take the vaccine. It seems they never will.

Source: CDC

However, this does not mean they have given up.

This chart shows how many prescriptions were written for ivermectin, per week in the last two years in the USA (data obtained from the Centre for Disease and Prevention (CDC)).

At the beginning of this year, that number increased to 40 thousand prescriptions a week and doubled in August, reaching 88 thousand per week.

Before the pandemic, a weekly average of ivermectin prescriptions in the USA was about 3,600. Madness over ivermectin has resulted in more frequent poisoning from this drug in America. Vet pharmacies have been short of supplies for some time, and some concerned pharmacists have started demanding the horse picture from their customers to make sure that the animals are the ones to be getting the drug.

This drama, however, is also played outside of the United States borders.

During this year, demand for ivermectin has suddenly increased in Central and Eastern Europe and South America with the emergence of the black market, as reported in “Politico”. All supplies in pharmacies in Romania have been already gone in January. Slovakian and Czech Ministry of Health has officially approved the use of ivermectin for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19 at the beginning of year. At the same time, the population in Brazil was at one moment encouraged by the highest government officials to consume drugs’ cocktail, including ivermectin. Cases of poisoning were recently reported in Malesia and Australia.

How on earth did we come up with that the anti-parasite drug, mainly used for the treatment of horses and cows, could curb the pandemic? How, for heaven’s sake, we lost control this much?


Ah, the crazy scientists


In the 1970s Japanese biochemist, Satoshi Ōmura discovered a family of avermectin compounds, and scientists later used it to develop an entire series of drugs used against parasites and harmful insects today. Ivermectin is one of them.

It was presented as a veterinary drug for the first time in 1981, and soon it was registered in the entire world as a drug for treating ovine, bovine and other animals against parasitic worms.

After clinical trials on humans confirmed that it is efficient in treating river blindness caused by the parasitic worm Onchocerca volvulus, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it for human use in 1996 under the brand name “Stromectol”.

Since then, ivermectin has been a safe treatment for several tropical diseases caused by parasites in humans, ranging from mites to roundworms. It could be used as pills, creams and lotions. Scientists who contributed to the development of ivermectin were awarded the Nobel prize for medicine in 2015.


Source: Wikimedia Commons


It is important to emphasize that there is a difference between ivermectin for people and animals.

Pills for humans are approved in specific doses.

Namely, drugs for animals are often highly concentrated since they should be used with large animals such as cows and horses. Such high doses could be toxic for humans. Also, there is a risk of potential adverse reactions of the inactive ingredients found in the animal drug, which are not tested for humans.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the scientists included ivermectin among drugs to be tested to discover whether they could be helpful against Covid-19 since this drug exhibits some antiviral characteristics.

However, the timer bomb, which will blow to pieces much-needed consensus and patience between the scientific community and media, was activated by one of the earliest studies from April 2020, which demonstrated that high doses of ivermectin are killing Covid-19 in the lab test tubes.

Although the researchers have not tested the drug on humans, the study echoed in the media channels and incited planetary hype over ivermectin.

The truth was that ivermectin was studied for years in the lab and exhibited characteristics in Petri dishes to fight different viruses, including flu, dengue, Zika and HIV. However, there are no major breakthroughs in fighting these in the human immune system.

At about the same time, a controversial unrevised document emerged claiming that ivermectin had drastically reduced the death rate among Covid-19 patients. Although it was quickly withdrawn, as it had failed to pass approval to be published in a scientific journal, it significantly helped increase ivermectin popularity in Latin America.

In November 2020, a shocking new study from Egypt claimed that significant recovery occurred among patients diagnosed with Covid-19 who received ivermectin in different stages of infection. The death rate among them was decreased by more than 90 per cent. This study was quickly burnt down due to accusations that it used plagiarized and inexistent data, so it was withdrawn in the end.

However, the damage was already done.


Two alchemists


In December last year, the healing powers of ivermectin were openly supported and recognized by two particular individuals, two doctors, Pierre Kory and Paul Marik.

Kory is a famous doctor in intensive care with almost two decades of experience. He recently quit his job in the Medical Centre of the University of Wisconsin, where he worked as a specialist, precisely due to his clash with the university’s management related to the use of ivermectin.

Marik is a Chief of Critical Care Medicine, Eastern Virginia Medical School. He caught the public eye in 2017 when his idea of treating sepsis by combining steroid hydrocortisone, Vitamin C and B1 ended in a fiasco. However, Marik had so loudly advertised this treatment that many patients and doctors worldwide tried it out before it was examined thoroughly.

It was precisely doctor Kory who first said, “ivermectin is effectively a “miracle drug” against COVID-19”, in his address before the U.S. Senate on 8 December 2020.

“In addition to supplements, such as Vitamin C, zinc and melatonin, ivermectin could save hundreds of thousands of lives”, he testified, quoting more than 20 studies.

Kory’s speech had an impact around the world, making people ask questions:

What are the science community and pharmaceutical industry hiding from us? Why are mass deaths allowed if there is a cheap cure that saves lives?

In March 2020, this duet established an organization, “Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC)”, whose primary focus was the promotion of ivermectin in treating Covid-19.

Although the FLCCC at first mentioned that ivermectin therapy was only a “bridge” to get to vaccination, as time went by, the activities of this organization transformed into pure PR.

“Are you at high risk of developing complications due to Covid-19? Take ivermectin. Do you live with someone who is infected? Also, take ivermectin. Do you suffer from long-haul Covid? Ivermectin is the solution for you.”

Through activities of the FLCCC Kory and Malik convinced millions of people that there was solid scientific evidence of successfully treating Covid-19 with ivermectin.

The problem was that majority of studies they referred to was – discredited. Data in these studies was plagiarized, misinterpreted or inexistent.

Researchers and journalists worldwide have noted the glaring errors and serious concerns about the data the FLCCC uses to promote ivermectin said, said “Business Insider”.  One small group of scientists has made a mission to analyze these studies, one by one, exposing their lacks and spins. Its members include the scientists who revealed that a famous ivermectin study from Egypt used data that didn’t exist (the Australian epidemiologist Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz from the University of Wollongong and the independent data scientist Nick Brown in Spain).

Only a minority of the ivermectin studies done so far are of high quality, as mentioned in the latest report of the BMJ Evidence Based Medicine, underscoring that it is still very uncertain how this drug can help against the virus. Currently, Oxford University is investigating ivermectin as part of the world’s most extensive study of home treatments for COVID-19.


Philosopher’s stone oozing $$$


Although Kory denies that this whole thing is driven by financial ambition, it is a fact that FLCCC collects donations from its followers via official web page.


Source: FLOCC/Screentshot


Not only that, until recently this origination had its own web shop with T-shirts, cups and other “gifts” with ivermectin motives. Web shop was removed due to spreading misinformation, but it is planned to be activated again.

FLCCC is not alone in this. Web sites such as charge writing prescriptions for ivermectin, and consultation prices have reached $90. This website is currently overloaded due to demand for ivermectin, as you only get a pop-up saying that they are delayed in serving their users.

Amazon sellers are not wasting their time either. Namely, prices of ivermectin on this website have increased from the usual $7 to $45. The cost of a six-pack of horse ivermectin has jumped from $22 to as high as $277 at the beginning of September, reported BuzzFeed.

The Joe Rogan experience – one of the most popular podcasts with an audience of 11 million people per episode – is infused with ivermectin commercials in its program.


We are not clever enough to understand how stupid we are


We are chasing our own tail in trying to dissuade the vaccine skeptics by offering scientific proof against ivermectin. This group of people will run for their lives, avoiding everything that professionals and scientists revised, explained Jennifer Reich, a professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Denver, in her article for The Washington Post.

“For people who are suspicious of mainstream scientific thought, information that appears to come from other sources often seems independent, insightful and brave. These skeptics insist that they can evaluate health information themselves, and contested claims from nonofficial sources let them feel like they’re doing so, which can paradoxically make those claims seem
truer and therefore more appealing than the mainstream ones.”

Reich explained that vaccine skeptics see medical practitioners who speak out against mainstream science and medicine as a kind of “scientific whistleblowers”.

Therefore, the core argument of doctor Kory and the rest of the ivermectin team is the so-called “greediness of the pharmaceutical industry”. They would usually defend their theses by saying that any information not supported by the establishment is labelled as disinformation.


No one left to say


Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), European Medical Agency (EMA), World Health Organization (WHO) and the rest of the leading scientific community around the world unanimously pleaded people not to use ivermectin for Covid-19 treatment.

The big manufacturer of ivermectin, Merck has made a statement drawing attention to potential dangers due to the maladministration of this drug. The discussion is on fire globally, but in Serbia, we can hear only one side.

While people are swarming pharmacies and disseminating disinformation about this drug on social media, the televisions with national frequency are hosting experts such as doctor Nestorović who is supporting the ivermectin madness.

Stefan Mandić-Rajčević, MD, a teaching assistant at the Faculty of Medicine in Belgrade, said for Istinomer that this drug, unfortunately, has gained immense popularity very harmful to the overall pandemic response.

“When a person thinks that ivermectin is appropriate prevention, they would usually give up on other forms of verified effective prevention, such as vaccination, use of masks and maintaining a physical distance. Therefore, they are at greater risk of getting sick. When they do and continue using ivermectin, the risk is that they will be late in contacting a doctor, thinking that ivermectin will solve the problem, yet, their clinical feature would be getting more serious. And finally,
ivermectin has numerous side effects, such as dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, lower blood pressure, different types of seizures, and even death. And it can have unpredictable interactions with other drugs that people normally take.”

The mania for this “miracle” has spread among Viber groups in Serbia, with several thousand members. They exchange messages minute after minute about where they could get ivermectin, in what form and what is the recommended dose.

As you can guess, these types of advice are usually provided by *experts*.

Mandić-Rajčević explained that some doctors openly promoted the use of ivermectin without experiencing any consequences from competent institutions, while some pharmacies, for financial and other reasons, would sell this drug without a prescription to the citizens and often actively engage in its promotion without any scientific foundation.

The Serbian Medical Chamber and other health care chambers should react to this, Serbian Medical Society, Health Council and medical faculties in Serbia as well. It is necessary to educate the population on the proper use of ivermectin and its reasons not being prevention nor an adequate cure against coronavirus. The big share of responsibility lies on doctors, pharmacists and competent institutions that should react to illegal sale and promotion of this drug”, he emphasized.

The only information you can find about ivermectin on Medicines and Medical Devices Agency of Serbia (ALIMS) website is that it has been registered as a veterinary drug in Serbia.

Istinomer asked ALIMS about their opinion concerning the use of this drug for Covid-19 treatment, however, this regulatory body has made no response.