“One of the most bizarre experiences of my life”: Inside the Ivermectin Cult
The Infodemic is a weekly newsletter, tracking how disinformation surrounding the coronavirus crisis is reshaping our world. Also in this edition: Covid death of an Italian anti-vaccine advocate, and the loss of faith in God
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US private and Medicare insurance plans may have paid up to $2.4 million for ivermectin prescriptions for COVID-19 in the week of August 12, 2021 alone. The total estimate for last year? $130 million. All for a drug that hasn’t been approved to treat the virus.
Ivermectin was developed back in the 1970s for treating head lice and certain parasitic infections in humans and livestock. In the early days of the pandemic, it was trialled as a treatment for Coronavirus, but the trials were not successful so, naturally, CDC, FDA and the Infectious Diseases Society of America refused to approve the drug for treating coronavirus.
This didn’t stop millions in the US from becoming obsessed with Ivermectin – and I just can’t wrap my head around this craze.
Some are calling it an “ivermectin cult.” I spoke to Jack Lawrence, a medical student at St George’s University of London, who was one of the first to uncover serious problems in a huge study supporting Ivermectin against Covid. His findings, which showed how the study was full of howling discrepancies, went viral – but did not stop Ivermectin devotees from seeking out the drug.
“Watching ivermectin become a culture war issue has been one of the most bizarre experiences of my life,” he told me.
Ivermectin sales are booming. CDC says 88,000 prescriptions of horse dewormer Ivermectin were issued in one week. In Windsor, Ontario last week, a Covid patient even tried to sneak a stuffed animal filled with pills past their doctors.
‘Other drugs such as dexamethasone and fluvoxamine which are also both cheap generic drugs have much more convincing evidence than ivermectin and yet haven’t attracted anywhere near the attention that ivermectin has.” Jack Lawrence said.
So, who is fueling this craze?
It’s a combination of rogue doctors, celebrities, telehealth and even insurance companies.
Medical personnel are not immune to conspiracies. While there is a medical consensus around Ivermectin, there is still a small group of rogue doctors who prescribe Ivermectin, there are also ones who are willing to deceive the patients. Take the recent case in Arkansas, where prison inmates were given Ivermectin without their knowledge or consent. They were told the pills were vitamins.
In the anti-covid vaccine groups, these doctors are idolized. They are thought of as crusaders against the government and big pharma. No matter how wild their claims get, people are ready to go with it.
Another group of people involved in this hysteria are celebrities. Joe Rogan, who hosts the biggest podcast in the world, adores Ivermectin. According to Joe, he along with “200 Congresspeople have been treated with Ivermectin for Covid.” After his remarks, 200+ doctors wrote an open letter to Spotify, asking the company to address the issue. Another supporter of the medication is the UFC President, Dana White who is certain Ivermectin works but ‘they’ are keeping it a secret. Celebrities like this have immense platforms and are a vital part of the misinformation swarm.
But it’s not just individuals who are supporting Ivermercin’s popularity. Telehealth companies are more than happy to feed the demand. They don’t just sell the drug, they heavily advertise it.
IN OTHER INFODEMIC NEWS
In Italy, an anti-vaccine leader who campaigned against the green pass has died of coronavirus. Luigi Marilli, 63, led many of the protests against Italy’s “Green Pass”, which is mandatory for entry to most shops, restaurants, public transport and hotels. The protests had a particularly grim significance in Bergamo, where 9,000 people died of Covid in Spring 2020. Marilli’s death was widely reported in the Italian press – something his supporters condemned as “too good an opportunity for mainstream media to miss.” Many of them mourned him on social media without ever mentioning why he died.
Antisemitic fliers linking Jewish people with the anti-vaccine movement were discovered stuck on lockers in several schools of Santa Monica, California. The posters had a Star of David and the words “anti-vaxx” emblazoned across them. Elsewhere in LA, posters claiming “every single Aspect of the Covid Agenda is Jewish,” were found in driveways and front lawns. “At the heart of anti-vaccine, coronavirus-skeptic and antisemitic ideologies is an entrenched belief that the world is controlled by nefarious elites, manipulating ordinary people to their own ends,” our reporter Erica Hellerstein wrote in her article on Covid antisemitism last year. “Now, hate groups appear to be exploiting that common ground to amplify the world’s oldest conspiracy theory — “The Jews are behind it all.”
While there’s been a huge upsurge in belief in conspiracy theories during Covid, faith in God, religion and even any kind of “higher power” has waned during this pandemic, according to a new study. A group of health and spirituality researchers at several universities in Germany found that 5% of respondents said they had lost their faith during the first wave – and that number surged up to 21.5% during the second wave. It seems that this loss of faith in religious institutions accompanies a wider loss of trust in governments and in their ability to control the virus.
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