Rand Paul: Scientists aren't studying the effects of ivermectin on COVID due to "hatred of Trump"

Rand Paul: Scientists aren't studying the effects of ivermectin on COVID due to "hatred of Trump"
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

I’m tempted to goof on him for this. And I am going to goof on him for this.

But let’s remember that there’s a famous recent case of experts avoiding a legitimate line of scientific inquiry because it had too much Trump-stink on it to suit them.

What he’s claiming isn’t nutty in the abstract.

But it’s pretty nutty in concrete terms.

Hatred of former President Donald Trump has kept researchers from looking into the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin and other drugs to treat COVID-19, Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told constituents on Friday…

“The hatred for Trump deranged these people so much, that they’re unwilling to objectively study it,” Paul said to the 60 people squeezed into the Cold Spring City Council chambers in this Northern Kentucky suburb just south of Cincinnati. “So someone like me that’s in the middle on it, I can’t tell you because they will not study ivermectin. They will not study hydroxychloroquine without the taint of their hatred for Donald Trump.”

It’s also why they don’t research hydroxychloroquine, he said, an anti-malarial drug touted by Trump as a treatment.

Where to begin? Here, I guess: Has Trump himself touted ivermectin at all? He’s been a consistent proponent of the vaccines, to his credit. Although, given the reaction he got the last time he promoted vaccination, he may be less consistent in the future.

Next: I don’t know where Paul’s getting the idea that scientists are unwilling to study ivermectin. They have studied it. They continue to study it. And the results they’re seeing are that it just doesn’t work on COVID.

A recent review of 14 ivermectin studies, with more than 1,600 participants, concluded that none provided evidence of the drug’s ability to prevent Covid, improve patient conditions or reduce mortality. Another 31 studies are still underway to test the drug

One of the largest trials studying ivermectin for Covid-19 treatment, called the Together Trial, was halted by the data safety monitoring board on Aug. 6 because the drug had been shown to be no better than a placebo at preventing hospitalization or prolonged stay in the emergency room. Dr. Edward Mills, a professor at McMaster University who led the study, which enrolled more than 1,300 patients, said the team would have discontinued it earlier were it not for the level of public interest in ivermectin.

The one study that did show a tremendous benefit from taking ivermectin was eventually withdrawn by the journal that published it when readers detected evidence of data manipulation and plagiarism in the results. So when Paul says that scientists are “unwilling to objectively study it,” what he seems to mean is that they’re unwilling to come to the conclusion about ivermectin desired by his populist fans, that the drug is a COVID-killer. It’s the same thing that happened with hydroxychloroquine, another alleged miracle cure that was studied plenty last year, contrary to Paul’s claims, and couldn’t deliver results against COVID in randomized clinical trials. The “tell me what I want to hear” ethos that defines modern American politics extends to politicized pharmaceuticals too. Until scientists affirm that ivermectin and HCQ work, they haven’t “really” studied the drugs.

In fact, the reason hydroxychloroquine got the scrutiny it did from researchers as a potential cure is because Trump devoted so much political capital to promoting it. The attention paid to the drug, like the attention that’s now being paid to ivermectin, sucked away resources that would have been spent more fruitfully on investigating whether, say, masks provide any benefit at all in classrooms or which combination of vaccines provides the most robust immunity from COVID. Scientists are jerking around with ivermectin because elements of the righty base (not Trump himself) are fixated on it as the new snake oil that the devious experts in the medical establishment allegedly don’t want you to know about. It gets more research than it warrants, not less, because of the MAGA factor.

The good news is that it’s already approved for people as an anti-parasite drug so it should be harmless to anyone taking it — except for two things. The people using it are obviously taking it as an alternative to the vaccine, which means they’re still vulnerable to the virus even if the ivermectin itself isn’t doing them any harm. Talk radio host Phil Valentine treated himself with ivermectin before dying of COVID earlier this month. And because ivermectin in human-sized doses is momentarily hard to come by, with prescriptions jumping from 3,600 per week in a normal year to 88,000 recently, some desperate people have resorted to buying the livestock version at pet stores. With unfortunate results:

A dose measured for a 1,000-lb horse will have a more … dramatic effect, let us say, on a 200-lb human. Calls to poison control centers have soared recently as people OD’d on the barnyard version of ivermectin. This NBC story explains how the craze began, with a website called SpeakWithAnMD became popular for its willingness to prescribe bogus COVID treatments like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. SpeakWithAnMD turns out to be affiliated with America’s Frontline Doctors, the group whom you may remember promoted HCQ as a cure for the disease last year and was amplified by Trump on social media. As word of mouth about SpeakWithAnMD spread among anti-vaxxers, though, many grew impatient. Wait times for a teleconsult on SpeakWithAnMD have gotten longer and the human version of the drug has gotten scarcer.

Which is why some of the impatient ones end up heading to the pet store, with bad things soon to ensue.

One thing I can’t figure out is why anti-vaxxers want a treatment for COVID at all. They tend to believe that the disease is overblown, inasmuch as they think it’s a bona fide disease at all. The demand for ivermectin proves that even so-called skeptics are terrified of infection; they’re just not terrified enough to get the one thing that’s been proved to all but completely prevent death from the virus. “If you are so nervous about putting a tested vaccine meant for humans into your body, then why are you willing to guzzle veterinary medication?” asks Jonathan Last. Beats me.

I’ll leave you with comedian Trae Crowder, a self-described liberal redneck who’s watching the ivermectin insanity with bemusement.

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