Please Get Vaccinated, Don’t Take Horse Dewormer

"What are you two-legged ding dongs doing now?!"
"What are you two-legged ding dongs doing now?!" Photo by Smabs Sputzer via Flickr
The anti-vaccination crowd has found a new way to maybe get people killed. Goodbye, hydroxychloroquine. Hello ivermectin, a horse dewormer.

The drug began circulating in goonybird rhetoric last December as a possible treatment for prophylaxis in COVID-19 patients. It’s since entered conspiracy theory circles as the simple cure They don’t want you to know about because vaccination is all a scam to put autistic microchips into us or something.

Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) – the man who also touted the theory that the violent insurrectionists that attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6 were secretly anti-Trump forces trying to make the president look bad – is responsible for putting the drug in the spotlight. He invited Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) doctor and co-leader Paul Marik, chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, to testify in the Senate.

Marik is controversial, to put it mildly. He has already been involved in one scandal trying to prove that Vitamin C can treat sepsis. His theories gained him some celebrity but have not been replicated in subsequent trials. Marik presented the FLCCC’s meta-data analysis on ivermectin as a COVID treatment to the Senate as well as in a press conference. He touted it as an updated version of the MATH+ protocol, which is also used by media darling and fellow FLCCC leader Joseph Varon at Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center.

Without going too deep into the weeds, the FLCCC has something of a history of taking very small studies, usually from other countries, and applying the preliminary findings in new treatment protocols rather than expand the field with randomized controlled trials. The members’ justification is that people are dying and it’s unethical to give them placebos even though that’s how, you know, science works best. It’s given the members the reputation of trailblazing mavericks, but it’s left little workable data in their wake.

The FLCCC’s meta-analysis led them to incorporate ivermectin into their recommend treatment protocols. The drug was also forwarded by Andrew Hill, PhD, a senior visiting research fellow in the pharmacology department at Liverpool University in England, who presented his findings in a YouTube video rather than published in scientific literature. It has since spread from there.

Whether ivermectin has some benefits in treating patients already infected with coronavirus is still an open question, largely because the drug’s champions are not living up to scientific rigor when it comes to its use. This has not stopped the conspiracy theorists from dangerously extrapolating the data that does exist into a vaccination alternative.

The FDA has had to go out of its way to inform people that ivermectin is not an approved treatment for COVID at this time. More importantly, the doses that are being used by people like the FLCCC are not the same as the ones commonly found in veterinary medicine. Ivermectin is sometimes prescribed for people with intestinal parasites but should only be used as directed by a doctor.

Please, do not take horse medicine thinking it will keep you from getting COVID. The doses for horses are for obvious reasons larger and can lead to coma or death in a human. Much as a man died from ingesting fish tank cleaner during the hydroxychloroquine fad, it is very possible to kill yourself seeking out treatment based on unscientific promotion of medicine, even when it may eventually prove to have benefits under the careful direction of a physician.

Get vaccinated. The scientific literature behind all three current vaccines is incredibly strong and immunization is the most reliable way to prevent COVID illness and death. Continue to mask up and wash your hands. These actions have rigorous data to support them, not a group of potentially promising studies that a few doctors have latched onto without submitting to their own randomized controlled trials.

Please, do not take a horse dewormer to own the libs.
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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner