The blind men and Ivermectin: medical politics in the time of Covid


When you mix politics and science, you get politics.” John M. Barry

When stories become deeply divisive it is a good time to ask some deeper questions. So here’s one: what is up with Ivermectin? Why has a decades old Nobel prize winning drug become a flashpoint in political divisions around pandemic policy, and who has most to gain or lose from its rise or fall in the Covid medical landscape?

Like in the parable of the blind men and the elephant who became convinced that the elephant was in fact a tree if they only felt its legs, a snake if they felt only its trunk, or a rope if they felt only its tail, Ivermectin is a completely different character depending on what part of the story you approach it from. It is a hero for anti-vaccine activists and a bête noire for those who rail against them. For thousands of doctors and researchers it is an effective workhorse in the fight against the pandemic, while for international medical agencies, politicians, Big Tech and most of the media, it is persona non grata. Ivermectin is a saint for the patients it has helped to cure. An outright nuisance for Big Pharma. The question is, in this story, who are the blind and who are the sighted? And is it even possible to see beyond the parts to the whole elephant?

If absolute truths are becoming harder to find in this world, it surely must be possible to wrangle a closer proximate out of the evidence than in the emotional octane bully pits on social media platforms and in what passes for debate in much of the mainstream media. For those who would rather simplify the Ivermectin debate to a tug of war between the political right and left, things become true or false depending on who is saying it is so and who is saying it is not. It is less important what is said than who is saying it. If you don’t like the politics of the person saying it then it must be false. This is truth as advocacy, not truth as reality. It reduces all debate to posturing. Evidence, if considered at all, is picked over for morsels that feed a preset agenda.

The results of a single study are treated as an adequate basis for evidence. The negative bias around Ivermectin in the press is now so extreme that to say anything about it other than to denounce this “horse drug” is to risk becoming marked with the rather tired out label of “right wing conspiracy theorist”. This is a balance that needs to be addressed, not by responding to hatchet jobs with uncritical “miracle drug” advocacy, but by making a sincere attempt to see a bit more of the elephant in the room.

This story from the LA Times is fairly typical of the tone around the subject. The author clearly intends for the reader to conclude that Ivermectin as a Covid treatment should be tossed onto the rubbish heap of medical theories on the basis of a single medical trial. What he fails to mention, however, is that the Together COVID-19 Trial from which he quotes was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. With its high level of interest and financial investment in Covid 19 vaccine companies, this would seem like a serious conflict of interest. In withholding such information, journalists are denying their readers the right to make up their own minds–to be exposed to more than just the leg or tail of the elephant and to decide for themselves what kind of animal they’re dealing with.

If we shift our focus from the United States to the rest of the world, the debate around Ivermectin as a Covid treatment becomes a very different one. It involves doctors, scientists, researchers and public health professionals, many of whom swing not the right, but to the left. It is also, at times, a battleground between stakeholders; Big Pharma and powerful health agencies on the one hand and doctors and patients on the other, often in the world’s poorest countries.


At its best, the debate around the role of Ivermectin in the pandemic goes to the heart of questions around the ethics of medical commerce, the right of doctors to treat their patients as they see fit, and the political and financial power dynamics in the global pandemic response.

What we discover when we take the time to ask the right questions is that the Ivermectin story in the time of Covid is not so much a conflict between the political left and right, but a conflict between interests that are driving the response mechanisms to the crisis. This conflict has been exacerbated by a dearth of investment and research in Covid therapeutics that actually treat the illness and the single minded focus on vaccines as the sole path to safety. In the United States, these responses have found their cheerleaders–either accidentally or intentionally–within two distinct political camps that assert arguments around “good” vs. “bad” science (or even science and anti-science) and civil responsibility vs. individual rights. This has resulted in people reduced to caricatures; of the sane, reasonable and compassionate people versus the insane, unreasonable and selfish. This has all given the impression that the different views in how we should respond to the pandemic are fundamentally political in nature, but are they? Could it be that there are other forces at work, with other interests, who might actually be quietly profiting from these divisions?

WHAT IS IVERMECTIN?

Ivermectin (also sold under the names Stromectol and Mectizan) is a drug that was developed by the American pharmaceutical giant Merck. It was first used as an anti-parasitic in veterinary medicine,but has been used for almost fifty years to treat a number of conditions in humans, primarily water-borne parasitic illnesses. Ivermectin is on the WHO’s authoritative List of Essential Medicines. It it has a long safety record, and is described in the scientific literature as “astonishingly safe for human use”. The drug was found to have extraordinary efficacy against river blindness (onchocherciasis), a nightmarish disease caused by the larvae of a parasite carried by blackflies that has maimed millions of people in the developing world. Ivermectin has been so successful in helping to eradicate river blindness that its discoverers won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 2015. From 1987, former Merck CEO, Roy Vargelos, was inspired to donate billions of doses of the drug for free in collaboration with the World Health Organization.

WHAT HAS IVERMECTIN GOT TO DO WITH COVID-19?

In June 2020, Ivermectin was shown to have potent anti-viral properties against SARS-COV-2 in the lab. Scientists called for more studies to explore the potential to repurpose this widely available drug that already had approval from all major health bodies to treat Covid19. In December, intrigued by the in vitro study, scientists noted that certain African countries had a low frequency of cases and deaths from the SARS-CoV-2 COVID-19 compared to others. When they delved deeper, they found that Covid patients in countries where Ivermectin had been used as part of the WHO-sponsored African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC), had a significantly lower chance of dying than in African countries that had not been part of the APOC protocol. The researchers suggested that a mass public health preventive campaign against COVID-19 may have “inadvertently” taken place, and again called for additional studies.

The additional studies came thick and fast. To date, there have been 104 of them examining the action of Ivermectin as either a preventative or treatment for Covid-19. Of these studies, 64 have been peer-reviewed and 60 have been control studies–that is studies that compare treatment with control groups, the gold standard of scientific research. Not all of these studies found efficacy for Ivermectin against Covid, but a significant number of them did.

The Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) led by Professor Paul E. Marik was founded in early 2020 with the mission of providing a continuous review of the emerging science and clinical data on treatment protocols for COVID-19. The group conducted a meta-analysis of Ivermectin interventions in the American Journal of Therapeutics the results of which were peer-reviewed and published in April 2021. The analysis included 18 randomized controlled treatment trials, controlled prophylaxis trials, and distribution campaigns that had been conducted up until January.

The researchers found that Ivermectin was effective “in all phases of Covid”, that treatment led to “statistically significant reductions in mortality, time to clinical recovery, and time to viral clearance” as well as significantly reducing the risk of contracting the virus. In their conclusions they suggest that Ivermectin “may prove to be a global solution to the pandemic.” Another meta-analysis of the evidence was published in June 2020 out of the UK. Bryant-Lawrie et al. concluded with “moderate certainty” that “large reductions in COVID-19 deaths are possible using Ivermectin”. Moderate certainty might not sound so convincing, but as clinical care physician Dr. Pierre Kory of the FLCCC points out, corticosteroids are also graded only with “moderate certainty” in their efficacy against the coronavirus even though they are currently the standard of care for Covid patients.

At the end of June this year, another meta-analysis by Roman et al. published in Oxford University Press for the Infections Diseases Society of America found against efficacy of Ivermectin in treatment of either early or late stage Covid. This was followed by an Open letter signed by 40 physicians detailing errors and flaws in the Roman et al. meta-analysis, as well as conflict-of-interest concerns and requesting a retraction.

In the first week of July 2021, Andrew Hill, a senior research fellow at Liverpool University doing research on Ivermectin for Unitaid, had a preprint of his own meta-analysis published in the Oxford Academic Open Forum Infectious Disease Journal. His analyses of the evidence showed that Ivermectin reduced deaths from Covid-19 as well as hospitalizations and significantly improved medical outcomes. The Youtube presentation of his results was removed and re-uploaded and removed again like a game of whackamole.

Critics continue to point to lack of quality peer-reviewed double blind control studies of Covid-treatment and Ivermectin, and questions over research quality and meta-analyses conclusions continue to dog those who have become convinced of its critical role in the war against the virus.

IVERMECTIN IN PUBLIC HEALTH DISTRIBUTION CAMPAIGNS

Some of the most compelling evidence for Ivermectin as a useful Covid treatment comes not from randomized control trials but from mass public health campaigns, particularly those that have been conducted in India, Mexico and South America. The campaign in Chiapas, Mexico, that rolled out in July 2021 appeared to have drastically reduced more serious forms of the illness.

On June 10, the Spanish-speaking media began reporting on the success that Peru was having in controlling the virus using Ivermectin. At that time, Mexico was in the middle of its worst peak with records breaking daily, and interest in Ivermectin rose dramatically. On June 20, the pan-American WHO (OPS/OMS) issued a statement strongly opposing the use of Ivermectin to treat Covid. Nefvertheless, Mexican health authorities decided to move ahead with with a distribution protocol for out patients that included Ivermectin.

Perhaps one of the reasons that Mexican health authorities chose to ignore the WHO advisory was their experience with the awful disabling impact of the parasitic disease onchocherciasis, known as river blindness. In 2015, the same year that the developers of Ivermectin won the Nobel Prize, the WHO declared this disease to have been completely eradicated in Mexico. One of the states hardest hit by river blindness had been Chiapas, which was where the Covid Ivermectin campaign was carried out. Many Mexicans in Chiapas must have had friends and relatives who had been affected by river blindness and probably felt a level of trust towards the drug that had cured it.

Relatively small doses of Ivermectin were distributed as part of a multi-drug treatment protocol for Covid positive patients suffering mild to moderate symptoms. The aim was to reduce hospitalization since the hospitals were completely overwhelmed by critical Covid cases. The campaign was substantial. In one month alone, 83,000 medical kits were distributed. The program was found to offer protection against the disease between 50 and 76%. By the end of the program Covid deaths in Chiapas had reduced dramatically while the deaths in the rest of the country had risen. A Peruvian study published January 2021 had similar findings. Ivermectin was also shown to reduce viral load, and hence the transmissibility of the disease.

Along with successfully treating Covid patients with mild to moderate symptoms, Ivermectin was also discovered to help prevent people from contracting Covid in the first place. Uttar Pradesh was the first state in India to introduce a large-scale prophylactic as well as therapeutic use of Ivermectin. It began in early summer 2020 in Agra, where Ivermectin was given to all emergency health workers in the district. None of them developed Covid-19 despite being in regular contact with Covid positive patients. Based on the findings from Agra, the state government sanctioned the use of Ivermectin as a prophylactic for all the contacts of Covid patients and later extended its use to therapeutic doses for treatment. Whatever the cause, death and infection rates in UP plummeted compared to other Indian states. Between September and October, the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) ran a study that found that only two doses of Ivermectin resulted in a 73% reduction in Covid-19 infection among their healthcare workers.

SO MERCK MUST BE HAPPY ABOUT THIS, RIGHT? WRONG

Despite the growing evidence of Ivermectin’s usefulness in the pandemic, or perhaps because of it, Merck took pains to distance themselves from their own Nobel prize-winning “wonder drug”.

In February 2021, Merck put out a strong statement on Ivermectin use during the Covid-19 pandemic. Claiming that their scientists “continue to carefully examine the findings of all available and emerging studies of Ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19 for evidence of efficacy and safety” they concluded that they had found “no meaningful evidence for clinical activity or clinical efficacy in patients with COVID-19 disease”. They concluded that: “We do not believe that the data available support the safety and efficacy of Ivermectin beyond the doses and populations indicated in the regulatory agency-approved prescribing information.”

Even though since this date, dozens of studies and real-world distribution programs have resulted in data that suggests otherwise, Merck has remained intransigent in their position.

Curiously, the only Ivermectin/Covid study published in JAMA, arguably the most prestigious medical journal in the world, concluded that the drug was ineffective against patients with mild to moderate to symptoms. This was the March 2021 López-Medina study out of Columbia. Because of its prestigious appearance in JAMA, this study was naturally given widespread media coverage. But one detail stands out. At the bottom of any published study the researchers must mention any conflicts of interest. And this study had them in spades.

The lead researcher in the study, Dr López-Medina, reported receiving grants from Sanofi Pasteur, GlaxoSmithKline, and Janssen as well as personal fees from Sanofi Pasteur during the conduct of the study. Another key researcher reported receiving grants from Janssen and personal fees from Merck Sharp & Dohme and Gilead Sciences. All of these actors have something to gain from a study that disproves the effectiveness of Ivermectin.

Janssen (owned by Johnson & Johnson) is, of course, the developer of one of the top vaccines against SARS-COV-2. Merck, has vested interests in side-lining Ivermectin in order to promote their new therapeutic, Molnupiravir, which we will learn more about later. Gilead Sciences is responsible for Remdesivir which (remarkably since even the WHO says it doesn’t work) is the only Covid drug with FDA approval. Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline are currently in collaboration to develop a whole new generation of multi-valent mRNA vaccines for COVID-19. How the fact that the Columbia study was funded by the very same entities that had some serious stakes in keeping Ivermectin out of the picture somehow slipped the attention of the journalists at the New York Times is anyone’s guess.

Even more perplexing was that in spite of the mounting evidence that Ivermectin was a potentially powerful tool in combating the pandemic, in spite of its long safety record, its widespread availability and affordability, none of the world’s major medical bodies – neither the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), World Health Organization (WHO), European Medicines Agency (EMA), nor the National institute of Health (NIH – authorize even its emergency use as part of Covid treatment protocol. Not even for patients fighting for their lives in the ICU.

In January 2021, the US National Institute of Health shifted their position on Ivermectin. They stopped short of recommending for its use but ceased to recommend against it stating “there are insufficient data to recommend either for or against the use of Ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19. Results from adequately powered, well-designed, and well-conducted clinical trials are needed to provide more specific, evidence-based guidance.” The UK’s COVID-19 Therapeutics Advisory Panel—an independent panel of experts that recommends what treatments should be proposed for testing through the various UK platform trials—expressed the same opinion. The response was always, “more trials, more trials, more trials”.

In richer countries the media became increasingly anti-Ivermectin, associating it with the right-wing fringe. Meanwhile, doctors and health care professionals in the developing world were claiming Ivermectin as possibly the best available drug at preventing and treating the disease. It was like two parallel universes.

Even the most ardent critics of Ivermectin—at least the honest ones—do not claim that Ivermectin doesn’t work against Covid, only that the evidence is methodologically limited. But here’s the Catch 22. To build a strong body of evidence for any intervention requires double blind controlled studies but these are expensive and require substantial resources and organization to run. Medical agencies such as the WHO are perfectly set up to fund such clinical trials. Indeed, WHO set up their own Solidarity Trials for the very purpose of exploring potential Covid treatments.

WHO has granted Ivermectin use only within controlled trials and yet bizarrely refuses to include Ivermectin in the clinical trials that the agency itself conducts.

For many scientists and researchers reviewing the evidence and for doctors working on the front line of the disease, the situation was incomprehensible. Even if Ivermectin wasn’t as efficacious against Covid as some of the studies indicated, they argued, any efficacy was better than nothing. Since there were literally no drugs approved to treat Covid apart from the ineffective and whoppingly expensive Remdesivir, what was the harm in including Ivermectin in treatment protocols when lives were at stake? Dr. Tess Lawrie, the lead researcher on the UK Ivermectin meta-analysis, who consults for the WHO and NHS to support clinical practice guidelines, went as far as to make a plea on Youtube for the public to inform themselves about Ivermectin.

Our evidence shows that Ivermectin is effective, safe and very cheap. We should be using it for both prevention and treatment of Covid. However, governments and health organizations are ignoring the evidence – and there’s a mountain of it – and I think this is because they are heavily invested in novel treatments. So I’m asking you please, take responsibility for your health, educate yourselves and inform your friends and family and most of all speak to your doctors. Help us spread the word, help us save lives. Thank you.”

WHY WOULD DRUG COMPANIES NOT WANT IVERMECTIN TO GET APPROVAL AS A TREATMENT FOR COVID-19?

Dr. Lawrie hints at the answer to this question in her video appeal when she says that health organizations are “heavily invested in novel treatments.” The small percentage of biopharmaceutical firms involved in the search for COVID-19 treatments (as opposed to vaccine development) raises the question of whether such firms may have insufficient incentives to redirect innovation efforts to respond to the pandemic. There are even less incentives to explore the potential use of repurposed therapeutics—that is, drugs already circulating in the healthcare market with tested safety records.

Firstly, getting funding and interest for trials for pre-existing drugs is not as easy as for novel ones. Discovering and developing new molecules has more cachet than re-purposing a common generic, but the main reason for the challenge in funding studies is that discovering new uses for older drugs is simply not as profitable. New drug molecules can be patented, meaning that companies can control the sale and receive all profits from their creation. Once patents expire, other companies are allowed to manufacture and sell the same generic drug, which drives down the price. Ivermectin was launched in 1981 and Merck’s patent on it expired in 1996, though it was extended for different periods in various countries. Today, generic forms of Ivermectin are widely commercially available.

Simply put, Ivermectin is not going to make anyone rich. A single dose of the drug is $2.64 compared to $520 for a single dose Remdesivir. It costs more to put Ivermectin into tables than it does to produce the drug itself.

Tocilizumab, one of only three WHO recommended drugs so far for the treatment of Covid is produced by the Swiss company Roche. Even though this drug—sold under the name Actemra —has actually been on the market since 2009, Roche has kept the price so high that it remains out of reach for most, with price tags per dose (600mg) set at $491. This could help to explain why most of us have never even heard of it. (The other two WHO recommended drugs for treatment of Covid19 are sarilumab, sold as Kevzara manufactured by Sanofli and the corticosteroid dexamethasone).

It is important to note that currently all the WHO recommended Covid treatment drugs are only for patients with severe and critical conditions. There are no recommended drugs for patients who have mild to moderate symptoms, although this is poised to change. As the world shifts from pandemic to endemic, this is the gap in the market that drug companies, who are finally turning their attention from vaccines to therapeutics, are eager to fill—with anything except Ivermectin, that is. And this is where the story really starts.

MOVE OVER IVERMECTIN, MAKE WAY FOR MOLNUPIRAVIR


Although Ivermectin has not received official approval from the world’s major medical bodies, it has been part of the Covid treatment protocol in many regions of the world since early in the pandemic. In January 2021, Merck scrapped its plans to develop vaccines against SARS-COV-2 to concentrate exclusively on therapeutics. The result of their efforts is Molnupiravir. This is the drug that is poised to corner the market for therapeutics against mild cases of the disease.

EIDD-2801, as Molnupiravir was formerly known, was developed at Emory University by Ridgeback Therapeutics before the pandemic for use against Ebola and influenza. After a study revealed that the drug blocked transmission of SARS-COV-2 in ferrets, Merck acquired exclusive worldwide rights to develop the drug and related molecules in March 2021, in collaboration with Ridgeback which is responsible for funding and conducting the Phase 1 and 2 trials.

The following month, in April, on the other side of the world in India where one of the world’s largest populations was battling against the second wave, the use of Ivermectin was formalized at the national level by All Institute of India Medical Science (AIIMS) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). All the evidence from the country’s own research studies and distribution programs had confirmed Ivermectin as an important part of any Covid 19 treatment protocol. There is no vaccine hesitancy in India—people are falling over themselves to get the vaccines—and as such Ivermectin has never been a political football in the way it has in the US. It is simply seen as a drug that has shown effectiveness in preventing and treating Covid.

That same month, Merk announced that it had entered into “non-exclusive voluntary licensing agreements” with five major Indian drug manufacturers for the novel drug Molnupiravir. The statement by Merk CEO, Kenneth Frazier, was curiously lacking in any mention of the curative properties of their new drug, focusing solely on its promised accessibility.

The scale of human suffering in India at this moment is devastating, and it is clear that more must be done to help alleviate it. These agreements, toward which we have been working as we have been studying molnupiravir, will help to accelerate access to molnupiravir in India and around the world,” said Kenneth C. Frazier, chairman and CEO, Merck. “We remain committed to aiding in the global response that will bring relief to the people of India and, ultimately, bring an end to the pandemic.”

The truth is that Mr. Frazier couldn’t very well talk about efficacy because at that time Molnupiravir was still “investigational” and in Phase 3 trials, the results of which had not yet been published. In spite of this, Merk was already engaged in signing licensing contracts and anticipating emergency authorization for its use by Indian authorities.

On June 9th, Merck’s aspirations to capture the Indian Covid patient market were given a further boost when the Union Health Ministry and Family Welfare’s directorate general of health services abruptly ceased their recommendation of the use of Ivermectin in Covid treatment.

On that very same day of June 9, the U.S. government committed to purchasing approximately 1.7 million courses of Molnupiravir at a price tag of 1.2 billion dollars. Once again Merk’s statement was lacking in any mention of the drug’s effectiveness against the disease it was developed to fight. The entire focus, once again, was on access as expressed by Rob Davis, the company’s president. “In addition to this agreement with the U.S. government, we are actively engaged in numerous efforts to make molnupiravir available globally to fulfill Merck’s commitment to widespread access.” Merck expects to have more than 10 million courses of therapy available by the end of 2021. And all of this while the drug is still being evaluated in clinical trials run by the very drug company that developed it.

BIG TECH & LEGACY MEDIA’S ROLE IN THE IVERMECTIN STORY

Either willingly or unconsciously the media and Big Tech have been doing Big Pharma, and particularly Merck, a huge favour by helping to smear Ivermectin’s reputation by aligning it with the loony fringe. It wasn’t that long ago that Ivermectin was touted by the mainstream media as the drug to watch with potential to be a game changer in the treatment of SARS-COV-2. And yet, in the name of protecting the public from misinformation during the Covid pandemic, the media and Big Tech have treated Ivermectin like woo woo at best and a public enemy at worst. Even the alternative press are getting in on the act. I have a Medium account but I cannot post this story there. Those who write about Ivermectin outside of the orthodox narrative have their accounts suspended as happened to Joyce Kamen, an Ohio-based writer and filmmaker.

Posts are routinely removed from platforms like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. Doctors who talk about Ivermectin have their accounts banned. Ivermectin might be the first drug in history to have been de-platformed.



By their own admission, Youtube is basing its content rules on guidelines from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and are still running from a May 2020 playbook. This means that not only are they are woefully behind on science that has evolved in leaps and bounds since that date, but they are aligning their censors with a medical body that has consistently refused any meaningful engagement in the research of treatment options for Covid 19 patients.

The only drug that the CDC have approved to treat Covid—Remdesivir—is a product of their own collaboration with the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. The WHO advise against Remdesivir as a Covid therapeutic claiming that it has “little or no effect on hospitalized patients with Covid-19.”

Those who like to cite issues with the data on Ivermectin would do well to look at the alarming paucity of evidence for the only FDA/CDC approved drug for Covid, Remsdesivir. They would be left scratching their heads as to how on earth this drug got emergency use authorization as early as May 2020 and full FDA approval for hospitalized patients by October 2020.

In their list of banned content, Youtube includes any posts that recommend the use of Ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of Covid-19. This comes right beneath a ban on Covid cure claims involving prayer or ritual. The content managers claim that these topics are being disallowed because they “pose a serious risk of egregious harm”.

A huge setback for Ivermectin proponents came in mid-July 2021, when a large study led by Dr Ahmed Elgazzar from Benha University in Egypt that had seemed to confirm what advocates of Ivermectin had been saying all along was withdrawn over accusations of plagiarism and concerns about discrepancies in the data. At the time, the Elgazzar study was only one of 62 studies that had shown Ivermectin efficacy, but the problem was that it had been so substantial and the results so promising that its retraction called into question the accuracy of the meta-analyses that had included it in their findings. The Guardian could hardly contain its glee and lost no time in further politicizing the situation. “The efficacy of a drug being promoted by right wing figures worldwide for treating Covid-19 is in serious doubt after a major study suggesting the treatment is effective against the virus was withdrawn due to “ethical concerns” was their opener.

NEW IVERMECTIN TRIALS MIGHT SETTLE THE DEBATE

Journalists can only report on what the medical science discovers. Fortunately, there are currently large trials of Ivermectin underway that hopefully help us all to better understand the potential role of Ivermectin in the fight to end the grip of this disease. Oxford University has already recruited several thousand volunteers for a large-scale clinical trial to study Covid and Ivermectin that they describe as “a well-known medicine with a good safety profile”. The US government has spent $155 million on ACTIV-6 a US study of repurposed medications for treatment of Covid 19 that includes Ivermectin.

It is increasingly being recognized, although at a bewilderingly slow rate, that antivirals must be developed as we move into the endemic phase of the disease. At a White House briefing last winter, Anthony Fauci, chief of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases had this to say. “The bottom line of what we need to do looking forward, and the clear need is this, is the development of potent antivirals directly acting on SARS-CoV-2. Antivirals would revolutionize the fight against SARS-CoV-2, since they block viruses from replicating and can stop people from getting very sick or dying.”

Naturally, Merck would prefer that Molnupiravir—not Ivermectin—become the go-to Covid anti-viral in the future phases of the disease. Many doctors will continue to prescribe Ivermectin off-label, but one can already see Ivermectin losing medical legitimacy as it already has in India. The Peruvian press has been touting this drug for the past several weeks and now the European press has come on board. It is fast nearing approval in Australia.

Molnupiravir may prove to be worth the investment, but as it moves into the spotlight an uncomfortable question remains: did Merck have a hand in the canceling of a safe, cheap, life-saving drug in order to profit from the suffering of millions?

And if the answer is yes, it is not technically criminal. After all, Merck’s loyalties are to its shareholders not to patients. And the drug it’s replacing is one of its own creation. But it’s a long way from the company that handed out free doses of treatment to billions to protect them from disease.

When former Merck CEO Roy Vagelos who was responsible for the free distribution of billions of doses of Ivermectin to combat river blindness was asked, “What would be an incredible moment of your career at Merck?” he answered, “When we eradicated a disease.”

I doubt the executives at Merck say anything quite so noble today.

We cannot expect giant profit driven companies to play nice or fair, but we have a right to expect a better standard of practice from our media. Just as the media has contributed to the unfair de-platforming of Ivermectin, it has the power to restore it through more responsible journalism. New York Times best-selling author in Michael Capuzzo, in May 2021, called upon his fellow journalists to “open their minds to legitimate, unreported doctors and therapies and write about all sides of the Ivermectin story” calling it “a historic opportunity,” adding, “Journalists may be the ones to save the world.” This last part is a little grandiose, but if that’s what it takes to get a clearer view of the truth, let them get their superhero suits out, flick open their laptops and get down to business.

About subincontinentia

writer and eternal optimist
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1 Response to The blind men and Ivermectin: medical politics in the time of Covid

  1. The truth is that pharma hasn’t done any sufficiently-powered studies of any antivirals to definitively conclude their effectiveness or ineffectiveness. By design.

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