Where did the ivermectin discourse come from?

Anti-vaccine social media users have been spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines throughout the pandemic. Ivermectin has now become a prevalent part of anti-vaccine Americans' discourse, as many think the drug is a censored COVID-19 cure, according to a Sept. 19 NPR report.

Ongoing discussions about ivermectin, a drug usually prescribed to treat parasitic infections in animals, have been catalyzed by social media, podcasts, news commentators and a small group of doctors who support the drug as a COVID-19 treatment.

The FDA and CDC have said there are currently no credible, peer-reviewed studies showing ivermectin is an effective COVID-19 treatment. However, large trials are underway.

"You have a large number of trials that have been done. Many of them are poorly done," Peter Lurie, MD, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest and a former associate commissioner at the FDA, told NPR. "They're too small, they're too short, they don't measure the right things."

Though the evidence may not be credible, the idea that an inexpensive, widely available drug can end the epidemic is attractive to Americans who distrust COVID-19 vaccines or doubt the severity of the pandemic.

In December, Pierre Kory, MD, a critical care physician then affiliated with St. Luke's Aurora Medical Center in Milwaukee, testified about ivermectin at a Senate committee hearing, saying the drug was "proving to be of miraculous impact." He is a founding member of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, a small group of doctors whose ivermectin guidance diverges from the medical community's consensus.

"It basically obliterates transmission of this virus," Dr. Kory said. "If you take it, you will not get sick."

Since Dr. Kory's claims were not supported by factual evidence and have not been since, YouTube removed videos of the hearing, deeming it "inappropriate content." However, Dr. Kory's remarks had already received more than 1 million views.

The removal of content promoting ivermectin as a COVID-19 cure has led to outcry about censorship from anti-vaccine Americans. Many think the perceived censorship of the drug fits into the larger conspiracy of the ​​so-called "medical deep state."

Public health experts say that removing COVID-19 misinformation can help end the pandemic, as many people are refusing proven prevention methods — such as vaccines, masking and social distancing — and opting for unproven treatments that could be harmful.


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