Telemedicine used to prescribe ivermectin for COVID-19, fueling misinformation

Ivermectin, a medicine used to treat parasitic worms, is being prescribed via telemedicine by a minority of physicians to treat COVID-19, despite FDA and CDC warnings against it, NPR reported Feb. 9.

Fueled by conspiracy theories, some people believe ivermectin to be a secret cure for COVID-19. 

The FDA, National Institutes of Health, American Medical Association and two pharmaceutical societies discouraged the use of ivermectin for COVID-19, and many physicians and health systems refuse to prescribe it to patients seeking COVID-19 treatment. 

But CDC data shows that in summer 2021, prescriptions for ivermectin were 24 times pre-pandemic levels — and when the omicron surge hit, the demand for ivermectin rose again.

The number of ivermectin prescriptions are coming from a small percentage of physicians, who often use telemedicine to write them. Some of these same physicians are promoting anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, according to Kolina Koltai, PhD, a misinformation researcher at the Seattle-based University of Washington. 

"They're profiting off misinformation, using their medical expertise as currency," Dr. Koltai said in the report.


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