Amazon algorithm directing readers to ivermectin, COVID-19 misinformation sites 

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User reviews on some Amazon listings appear to be pushing false claims that anti-parasite drug ivermectin is a treatment for COVID-19, with one review linking to a coronavirus misinformation website, CNBC reported Aug. 31. 

Prescriptions for ivermectin had soared to more than 88,000 per week as of mid-August, up from the pre-pandemic average of 3,600 per week, according to CDC data. The drug is most often used to treat parasitic worms in animals, but some physicians have been prescribing it to treat COVID-19. 

The FDA recently warned against use of the drug, which is approved only at very specific doses for humans to treat some parasitic worms, as well as some topical formulations for head lice and skin conditions.

After searching for the term "iv" on Amazon, CNBC found that the website's auto-complete function suggests a range of ivermectin products, including "ivermectin pills," "ivermectin paste," and "ivermectin injectable." The search results indicate that enough people have been searching for "ivermectin" that Amazon's search algorithm was automatically trained to push it to the top of suggested results, according to the report. 

On one ivermectin listing, a reviewer shared dosing directions and linked to a website that promotes COVID-19 misinformation, including the false claim that ivermectin is "safe and effective" for treating COVID-19. 

An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC in a statement that "Amazon's autocomplete responses are driven by customer activity. We are blocking certain autocomplete responses to address these concerns." 

A few hours after CNBC's report was published, Amazon added a notice to searches for "ivermectin and humans," which states that the FDA advises against the use of ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19. The notice also prompts users to visit the FDA's website for more information and appears on searches for "ivermectin covid" as well.

 

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