Prof Aldous on the negative mainstream narrative around Ivermectin

Professor Colleen Aldous is one of the professionals who have – considering the censorious climate in which we find ourselves – courageously spoken out against the official Covid-19 narrative being driven by mainstream media over the last almost 2 years. Professor Aldous, a Geneticist and Clinical Researcher at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, has advocated in favour of Ivermectin and its use in the prevention and treatment of Covid-19, and has consistently provided a wealth of information to support her claims. In this article by Professor Aldous, she shifts her focus to the apparent ‘energised, international, negative narrative developing around the use of Ivermectin in Covid-19 treatment that the mainstream media is perpetuating.’ The article draws particular attention to Merck & Co, who first produced Ivermectin, but which has recently ‘added fuel to the disinformation campaign by releasing a statement saying there was, “A concerning lack of safety data in the majority of studies.”’ Over the last decade, Merck – which is America’s second-largest pharmaceutical company – has paid out over $4.85bn in judgements and settlements for lawsuits regarding Vioxx, including one $950mn settlement and millions of dollars for lawsuits, settlements and penalties related to other drugs. Any trust in an organisation with such an extraordinarily large stain on their credibility is hard to fathom. Merck’s anti-Ivermectin message is therefore inherently questionable. Despite this, the company’s message continues to be picked up and pushed by media outlets across the globe. – Nadya Swart

Fake news and Ivermectin

By Professor Colleen Aldous*

The South African tabloid, You has joined the mis and disinformation campaign on Ivermectin this week with a front cover statement “All the Facts: Why a drug meant for animals became so dangerous – Ivermectin doesn’t protect you from COVID and it could kill you”. There are few truths in the headline and the article, making it devoid of facts. 

Professor Colleen Aldous

Ivermectin is registered for human use as an antiparasitic and has been intensively investigated as an anti-viral, and it cannot kill you unless you have a genetic disorder that allows it to cross the blood-brain barrier. People have tried to commit suicide by overdosing with it and the only person who died had taken it together with an overdose of warfarin.

There appears to be an energised, international, negative narrative developing around the use of Ivermectin in COVID-19 treatment that the mainstream media is perpetuating. The same falsehoods are repeated widely and a stream of misinformation is published on a daily basis in tandem with the disparaging of Ivermectin researchers, adopters and even the press that print thought that opposes this dominant narrative. A law of propaganda attributed to the Nazi, Joseph Goebbels is “repeat a lie often and it becomes the truth.” And the lies are being repeated over and over again.

The most recent sequence of media events has been around the safety of Ivermectin. One of the fundamental truths about Ivermectin is that it is a safe drug. Please do not take my word for this, go to VigiAccess.org and look up the adverse events for Ivermectin and other drugs you may like to compare it with. VigiAccess.org is the WHO database for drug adverse events. Compare it to known safe drugs that are available over the counter like paracetamol. VigiAccess.org is the WHO database for drug adverse events.

SAHPRA first kicked off the misinformation on the safety of Ivermectin in South Africa when, in their December statement effectively ‘banning’ the use of Ivermectin, they state it could cause death. More recently, we had a colleague who went public in several media outlets saying he was seeing liver toxicity in his patients who had been taking Ivermectin. This was easily corrected by referring to the VigiAccess database as well as pointing out that COVID-19 had liver toxicity as a symptom in some severely ill patients. 

More recently, stories came from the USA where a doctor lied about Oklahoma hospitals  overflowing with Ivermectin poisoned patients. The story went viral and it was apparently too salacious to fact check. The mainstream media re-reported it in at least six other outlets, where it became international news through media sharing. Trial Site News went as far as fact-checking the real data around toxicity reporting for Ivermectin from the American Associated Poison Control Centres (AAPCC) and the National Poison Data System (NPDS) Bulletin in the US and found 1143 Ivermectin cases reported from January to August 2021. This indicated an increase in the baseline data of 2020 of 435, which is to be expected as there has been an increase in unsupervised self-medication with animal products as well as legal prescription of Ivermectin since late 2020.

No deaths and 11 serious adverse events were reported in the 1143 reports. Only 22% of all reports showed any real affect, the rest were categorised as requiring no follow up. The 11 cases reported for severe adverse reaction were in self-medicated people using veterinary product. Yet the regulatory authorities and media are quoting this minor increase over baseline in hyperboles. Most drugs if used incorrectly will cause adverse events but in the reporting of Ivermectin – correct usage is conflated with incorrect usage. Yet, despite this, there were no deaths resulting from the incorrect usage of Ivermectin.  

In February 2021, Merck & Co, who first produced Ivermectin and very nobly made it available at no charge in the Mectizan program, added fuel to the disinformation campaign by releasing a statement saying there was, “A concerning lack of safety data in the majority of studies.” They were referring specifically to the human studies for Ivermectin use in COVID-19 I assume. I have perused all the published human trials in this area and the majority mention that there are no serious adverse events and certainly no more than in the control arm if it was a controlled study. Their statement is disingenuous in that Merck & Co supported a safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetic study of escalating high doses of Ivermectin that showed much higher doses than previously established for anti-parasitic treatment were safe in healthy adults.

We can look back in history to examine another one of Merck & Co’s less noble actions. Their anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx was launched with the knowledge since 1999 that there were cardiac side effects. However, a $410 million disinformation campaign was launched to dodge queries about cardiac serious adverse events.

David Scheim expands on what this led to in “Dodge Ball Vioxx.” In a scathing critique of Merck’s duplicitous promotion of Vioxx, Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of Lancet, noted how Merck prepared a sales presentation, entitled “Dodge Ball Vioxx,” with instructions for dodging awkward inquiries from physicians. To the question, “I am concerned about the cardiovascular effects of Vioxx?” the answer that Merck instructed was: “DODGE!”

“Neutralise,” “discredit,” “destroy.” Merck knew early of Vioxx’s cardiovascular risks, which resulted in up to 139,000 heart attacks and strokes, 30-40% of them likely fatal. Merck not only concealed some such deaths, but it systematically attacked those who warned of these fatal risks. It created a spreadsheet that named Vioxx critics and noted plans for each, including “neutralise” or “discredit.” Merck also listed its staff assigned to each critic—an entire “task force” to one. On October 15, 2001, one Merck executive emailed another: “We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live.”

By 2004 there was no more hiding the fact that Vioxx posed a serious threat to many patients and it was withdrawn from the market. Research published in the Lancet estimated that 88,000 Americans had heart attacks from taking Vioxx, and 38,000 of them died.

There are at least three antivirals currently undergoing trials in the hope of entering the COVID-19 therapeutic market soon, quite likely under emergency use. Dr Antony Fauci has already started preparing the world for them by stating the virtues of early therapies and whetting the appetites for those who still believe that repurposed drugs are unsatisfactory. One of them is Merck’s novel drug, molnupiravir. Merck no longer holds the patent for Ivermectin.

It is clear the facts about Ivermectin do not align with what the media, industry and regulatory authorities in the hierarchy of medical leadership are using to mislead the public. Mis- and disinformation accompanied with fear-mongering are becoming the dominant narrative of the tabloid and mainstream media. The zeal with which they publish unverified press releases which expound on the ‘dangers’ of Ivermectin is met only by silence when their errors are pointed out.

  • Prof Colleen Aldous has a doctorate and is a full Professor and Health Care Scientist at UKZN’s medical school where she runs the doctoral academy at the College of Health Sciences. She has published over 130 peer-reviewed articles in rated journals.

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