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A Painful Reminder

May 28, 2024

No matter how we try to avoid divisive topics, reality sometimes forces us to look in the mirror with a painful reminder.  That moment has arrived.

On March 21st in the US District Court in Galveston Texas, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) settled a lawsuit brought against it because, for the first time, it had told doctors not to use an approved drug “off label”, meaning for a disease for which it had not specifically been intended.  Additionally, the FDA warned the public not to take ivermectin for Covid.  In the settlement, the FDA agreed to remove all social media posts and advisory statements about ivermectin, whose discoverers won the Nobel Prize in 2015.

Why did the FDA settle?  Litigation cost was not an issue: when did the federal government withdraw for that concern.  But settlement allowed them to deny that any law was broken or “wrongdoing” done.  The crisis was over.  They had helped prevent ivermectin from being used by many patients because most doctors refused to prescribe it.  If a jury agreed with the doctors’ claims, FDA had a lot to lose.  The agency had achieved its goal.  Had their purpose been to protect “big pharma” from a cheap drug?   One can only speculate.

The FDA’s assault on a fully FDA-approved medication that has been humanely used since 1987 began on March 5, 2021, a month before any Covid vaccine was widely available.  The FDA issued a Consumer Update entitled “Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19.”  On August 21, 2021, it widely published on multiple social media platforms “You are not a horse.  You are not a cow.  Seriously, y’all.  Stop it.”  Here’s the accompanying picture that made headlines:

Shortly thereafter, on September 1, 2021, the AMA, APhA, and ASHP jointly issued a press release stating, “The American Medical Association (AMA), American Pharmacists Association (APhA), and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) strongly oppose the ordering, prescribing, or dispensing of ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19 outside of a clinical trial.”  The press release went on to cite the FDA’s statements, among other sources, as justification for its warning to doctors, pharmacists, and the public.  In other words, these powerful national associations urged the public to follow the FDA Consumer Update, which now has been removed by terms of the litigation settlement.

Almost simultaneously with this press release, most doctors and pharmacies began refusing to prescribe or fill scripts for ivermectin out of fear of retaliation from their licensing boards, the media, and their medical peers.

For thirteen months before there was any vaccine widely available, public health leadership, CDC, FDA, organized medicine, and most political leaders all preached the same message to US citizens: nothing works for the Covid virus so there is no point in trying something that is safe, cheap, and some think might work.  Instead “just follow the science” was advised.

Many people across the world and in the US, both doctors and patients, disagreed. They prescribed or took ivermectin which had a twenty-eight year legacy of a strong safety profile, and a long history of helping people overcome serious illnesses.  And they fared well.

What’s the point?  Who’s right?  Who’s wrong? Medical science can be very messy.  But we cannot change history, there will always be painful reminders.

However, we can learn how to come together as a society, honor our differences in appearance and ideas, stop vilifying those who challenge the medical status quo, and forever avoid another such tragedy perhaps fueled by hubris.

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