Health law professor says ‘ideological lens’ behind unproven COVID-19 treatment

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A health law professor says some belief that a drug used to deworm cattle and horses can treat COVID-19 shows how ideology can lead people to embrace misinformation.

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Timothy Caulfield of the University of Alberta is an alternative medicine critic and says it’s fascinating to see people looking for ivermectin.

“It really has become a story of ideology and group thinking,” he said in an interview this week.

“It reflects what happened with hydroxychloroquine. The evidence against this has become so overwhelming that they decided to put their energy into a new wonder drug – and it’s ivermectin and it really hurts.

“It highlights the power of an ideological lens to allow you to embrace information that is clearly untrue.”

The manager of an Alberta feed store said he has received requests for ivermectin, a drug commonly used to treat parasitic worms in livestock. It has not been proven to be a treatment for COVID-19.

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Lance Olson of Lone Star Track and Feed near Calgary said he started receiving calls about the product, which is listed for sale on the company’s website, last November.

“We started addressing it to our staff just to make sure we were dealing with these calls properly, as we noticed an increase in the number of calls,” he said.

“I would say that at the top we were making five or six calls a week. It has slowed down slightly since then, but there was a slight uptick in early July that forced us to remove it from our shelves.

Olson said he cannot sell the product to people who do not have a site identification number, which is necessary to purchase products with an active ingredient.

“If you don’t have this number, we can’t sell it to you,” he said. “It’s the law now. We cannot sell it to you, otherwise we will be fined.

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The United States Food and Drug Administration has published a warning on its website against the use of ivermectin, which comes in tablet form for human use to treat parasitic worms or in topical form for head lice and skin conditions like rosacea.

“Taking large doses of this drug is dangerous and can cause serious harm,” the website read. “If you have a prescription for ivermectin for FDA approved use, get it from a legitimate source and take it exactly as prescribed.

“Never use medicine intended for animals on yourself. Preparations of ivermectin for animals are very different from those approved for humans.

Health Canada also released an advisory Tuesday evening regarding “reports on the use of veterinary ivermectin” to prevent or treat COVID-19.

“Canadians should never consume animal health products because of the potential serious health hazards they pose,” the federal department said in the release.

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Olson said he never expected there to be such a demand for the animal product.

“It appears that people who are unwilling to take or be vaccinated are looking for a viable alternative to help fight (COVID-19),” he said. “Buying ivermectin to ingest it on your own, especially animal grade, which we have, is not good.

“It can potentially be harmful and it is not for human consumption.”

Caulfield said there was a mismatch between those who would not receive a vaccine, but were ready to ingest a medicine intended for animals.

“It really shows the power that a conspiracy theory mentality can have over the way you view the universe,” he said.

“On the one hand, we have a vaccine that could be said to be the most studied vaccine in human history… go for the latter.

“It really is an incredible disconnection.”

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