September 7, 2021

TIM CARNEY: The juvenile ‘It’s horse paste!’ critique of ivermectin.

The Nobel Prize in medicine in 2015 went to two scientists whose experiments on a type of bacteria and subsequent modifications produced a compound that led to “a new class of drugs with extraordinary efficacy against parasitic diseases,” in the words of the Nobel Prize committee.

That compound is ivermectin, which “turned out to be highly effective in both animals and humans against a variety of parasites, including those that cause River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis.” The FDA approved the drug in 1996.

That’s why U.S. doctors wrote more than 100,000 prescriptions a year for ivermectin, which comes in tablets but also in a lotion. In 2020, the FDA approved one ivermectin lotion as an over-the-counter lice treatment.

So why does the major media want you to believe that ivermectin is simply a “horse paste”?

The answer is probably because the media are more interested in scoring cheap points in the game of culture-wars by mocking rednecks and conservatives than they are in informing their readers.

The situation is this: Many people believe that ivermectin is an effective treatment of COVID-19, but the drug is not proven to treat COVID-19 effectively. Nor is it approved by the FDA for that purpose. It’s an anti-parasitic drug, and coronavirus is not a parasite. Although it has been shown to break down the coronavirus in laboratory settings, it has not yet been shown to do so in humans.

Some people apparently have sought ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment and have resorted to buying products for farm animals that contain ivermectin as the active ingredient. This is obviously far more foolish than taking human roundworm treatment for off-label purposes.

So, when a well-known and widely hated podcaster announces he is taking ivermectin, among other drugs, to treat his coronavirus, how does NPR cover it?

Spoiler: Not in the way that people who “believe in science” should. But then, “believe in science” is just another tribal identifier, not, you know, actual belief in science.

Related:

Media narrative right now: “The only reason Covid isn’t over is because a bunch of dumb anti-vaxxer Trumpian hicks from rural America refuse to get vaccinated, and instead are taking horse dewormer that they read about on the internet!”

Complex realities of why Covid isn’t over:
1. The vaccines, though effective, are not nearly as effective as they were initially depicted last winter, meaning there are and will continue to be breakthrough cases (albeit fortunately milder).

2. Vaccination does lag, but it is not primarily where the media claims. Rather, the biggest gaps in vaccination are in lower income and minority communities (stats here: https://www.kff.org/…/latest-data-on-covid-19…/). The reasons for this lag are complicated, but mainly amount to the transaction costs of access, including the free time needed to get vaccinated. If the media and political class focused their attention on positive messaging and improving access in these communities, they could potentially make a sizable dent in the gap. Instead, they’ve chosen to ridicule and blame it all on a tiny fringe of anti-vaxxers.

3. The horse dewormer thing is at most a side-show that the media has pounced upon because it allows them to ridicule people they don’t like, as we saw yesterday with the fake ivermectin overdose story. It has next to zero bearing on ending the pandemic, and the only response it warrants is caveat emptor.

4. The public health messaging from Fauci et al continues to be atrocious, and is likely doing more harm than good because of all the deserved distrust it has accumulated. Insofar as public health officials have a role in ending this thing, the best thing they could do right now is shut up and contemplate how they destroyed their credibility over the last 18 months. Anything else they say at this point is counterproductive.

5. At the end of the day, Covid is becoming endemic so it will technically never “end.” Instead it will just enter the realm of the common cold. Unfortunately much of society and almost all of the political class continue to treat any Covid case it as if it’s still March 2020, which means absurd overreactions and policy driven by alarmist hype are still the dominant narrative. This will likely remain the case as long as mandatory testing regimes aimed at “discovering” covid among non-symptomatic people in the general public are common.

This will continue so long as it serves the interests of the political class.

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