Tuesday, September 07, 2021

The Ivermectin Mess

Scott Alexander, my favorite source for online information and discussion, has a recent post touching on the Ivermectin controversy. The point of his post, which is mostly about a Rolling Stone article that was wildly inaccurate, is that people on both sides of the political spectrum are too willing to believe whatever fits their prior beliefs. A good deal of the comment thread, however, dealt with the controversy over Ivermectin, which turned out to be interesting.

Ivermectin is a drug approved by the FDA and extensively used for treating problems having nothing to do with Covid, an anti-parasitic drug. There is some evidence that it is useful for treating Covid but apparently not very solid evidence; the FDA says it is not known to help with Covid and that studies are currently being done. True to the usual FDA policy, they disapprove of people experimenting on themselves by using it against Covid before the FDA has approved it for that purpose. Ivermectin is also used to treat animals for parasites, and some people have taken the animal version, a much larger dose, with bad effects. 

Unfortunately, the question of whether it works has somehow gotten linked to political polarization, with people on the right thinking it does, people on the left that it doesn’t. This may be connected to the controversy over vaccination, since the more people believe Covid is treatable, the less the pressure to get vaccinated. The media, not surprisingly, mostly support the left’s view. Much of the reporting is dishonest, representing it as a horse drug dangerous for humans and ignoring the fact that it is also a human drug and that the serious problems are due to people taking the animal version instead of the pill prescribed for humans. That misrepresentation can be found in a tweet, but not the web page, from the FDA. A likely result of the campaign to demonize Ivermectin is to make doctors reluctant to prescribe it even for its approved use, even more for off label use against Covid. That will make people more likely to use the veterinary version, making the problem worse, not better.

Two people in the comments responding to Scott’s piece asserted that Ivermectin had been approved by India. That got me curious, so I googled for information on the subject. The closest I could find to confirmation was a story that two states in India were using it. I then switched my search engine to Duck Duck Go and found a story, from ForbesIndia, which reported that India recommended Ivermectin in its guidelines — along with the statement that WHO and the FDA disapproved of it. I went back to Google and did the same search and was unable to find that article. There were some pro-ivermectin articles but none I found that reported that India had officially recommended the drug and none from a source that a reader, especially a left wing reader, would be likely to take seriously. This at least mildly suggests that Google filters in part on a political basis, which would be disturbing it true.

Since I raised the issue of vaccination ... . My view is that the current vaccines sharply reduce the risk of dying from Covid; I am not sure how good the evidence is that they substantially reduce infection and transmission. Common side effects appear to be minor, ranging from a sore arm to feeling sick for a few days. I therefor expect that it is in the interest of most people to get vaccinated, with the possible exception of people, especially young adults, who have already had Covid. The result of vaccination becoming a political issue is almost certainly to reduce the number of people who get vaccinated, which is unfortunate. It also produces a lot of self-righteous posturing on both sides, as became strikingly clear to me when I put my previous blog post on FaceBook.


Ricardo Cruz said...

Some sources also say that Japan has approved it and that the Tokyo Medical Association is recommending it.

It's hard to know who to believe. I sometimes find that DuckGoGo gives better results for controversial issues.

The media is very political and they love to create outrage. But when you dig it further, you find out that the details are much more nuanced and boring than what was portraited. You have lots of examples of that happening with Donald Trump. And this is not an exclusive problem of the US. Here in Portugal we had a right-wing prime-minister (Passos Coelho) that is famous for saying "Portuguese who can't find a job can always emigrate." If you ask any Portuguese, he will tell you that the prime-minister has said that. But if you dig further, you find no video evidence of him saying that and the original source is the teachers union which was mad about a protocol in which the national teacher allocation included foreign Portuguese speaking countries like Timor.

I think the only worrisome development is that the Internet used to be pretty open, but now you need to be pretty careful with what you say in Facebook, YouTube, etc and even Google "fights disinformation" now.

rob said...

Nothing much to say beyond that I found it a great post and hope someone follows up on that Google bias thing

Anonymous said...

> Scott Alexander, my favorite source for online information and discussion

Careful, while he's better than the MSM, he still has some glaring blind spots. Most notably, whenever "his side" gets caught doing something bad (which is rather frequently), he needs to reassure himself that the other side is also doing similar things, or at least drop a lot of squid ink to distract from the fact that he can't actually find any examples of the other side doing similar things.

His "toxoplasma of rage" article is an example of this phenomenon, which is taken at face value by disturbingly many people.

Anonymous said...

I honestly don't understand why people are still using goolag search.

Beej said...

I ran this as a twitter experiment and I think your "Google didn't show me X" thing may be heavily related to your browser cookies.


Average Radical said...

I think it would be nice if there was a "steelman" podcast or news channel of sorts that tried to find the best evidence for all points of view. As it stands, it's hard to trust any side.

brekinapez said...

I have used Ivermectin. The animal version is the same as the human, but obviously dosed for a much larger being. It is based on weight, so a tube that will treat a horse once will contain 5-7 human doses.

I started it after being diagnosed, but after taking my second dose I was feeling better and my mood was even lighter (probably because I was feeling better). I did however have a little diarrhea after the first dose, but I suffer from IBS and my gut tends to get easily upset. Most people I know don't get that effect.

The amount of hate towards it in the media is ridiculous though, and all the headlines about people taking horse medicine are deliberately ignoring the fact Ivermectin has been approved for human use since 1969 and has been prescribed millions of times for various issues since then.

It is also interesting that Pfizer is working on a new Covid treatment that contains Ivermectin as an ingredient. Make of that what you will.

jp11235 said...

David, FYI, an interesting book on property rights that might interest you. Sorry, did not know where to send this comment.
Mine!: How the Hidden Rules of Ownership Control Our Lives

JohnP said...

The thing about posturing is that one side has basically the entire corporate, media and state apparatuses coming after them and the other side doesn't. So as far as posturing is concerned one side is basically being threatened with their jobs and some clowns on CNN have even said inter US travel is a privelidge not a right and the other side has some like token amount of value as you argue correctly.

I also add that I agree that scott usually has this thing where if "his side" is doing something bad he needs to find something that the other side is also doing bad. Outside of a few states the "other side" is almost entirely in charge. Its worth pointing out the vax rate in florida is higher then in Illinois...or take a look at certain neighborhoods in NYC. I sort of laugh when circa october many people on the "left side" were saying not to rush the creation of this vaccine. Trump has told his followers to take it and has taken it himself and taken credit for its success. As far as vaccines are concerned circa 2015 and before many of the people who were opposed to vaccines in general were not nescairly on "team trump."

To conclude i would say this is 90 percent political and 10 percent medical. The extent that unvaccinated people pose a threat considering that vaccinated people can still spread it at some level and unvaccinated people may have natural immunity anyways it becomes a game of small potatoes. This all forgets the fact that isreal seems to be advocating the 4th booster shot according to alex berenson. On lex friedman podcast Vincent stated that its very unlikely one could eradicate this anyways which then goes into the its pointless to get vaccinated view. Vaccinated means yearly vaccinations if the pro covid vaccine people are being honest which if one learned anything none of them have been.

Rob said...

I don't remember where I heard of this but a research team investigated search results for Google, Yahoo and DuckDuckGo during the 2020 election

They found that Google had a liberal bias to their results which was even more biased for their 'conservative profile searchers'. And those same conservative profile searchers experienced a voter turnout ads blackout on Google for a week which ended immediately when they went to the media with this

Whether done under the noses of management, which I think is more likely, or from the higher ups I feel like Google is corrupted politically. On a quick search I can't find this specific story though I do see one that appears quite legitimate and found a liberal bias in Google results such that liberal results were in the top 3 or top 5 results with less of the two key metrics of external links and length than neutral articles while conservative results needed a larger number of external links and length than neutral articles to appear in the top 3/5