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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Explained: Why is Joe Rogan drawing flak for using ivermectin to treat Covid-19?

Joe Rogan, the host of Spotify’s most popular podcast, 'The Joe Rogan Experience', has been widely criticised by health experts for spreading misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic.

By: Explained Desk | Margao |
Updated: September 9, 2021 1:16:44 pm
US podcaster Joe Rogan (Twitter/Joe Rogan)

From promoting unproven methods of treating Covid-19, to discouraging young people from getting vaccinated — the host of Spotify’s most popular podcast, ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’, has been widely criticised by health experts over the last 18 months for spreading misinformation about the pandemic. This week, when Joe Rogan announced he had tested positive for Covid-19 himself, he sparked a barrage of fresh criticism after he revealed that he had turned to deworming medicine, ivermectin, among other medications, to treat his symptoms.

While speaking about his treatment plan, Rogan, who has opted out of getting vaccinated, said he was taking the unproven drug ivermectin, which is used for both humans and animals to treat parasitic infections. While the drug has been authorised by the US’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to serve this purpose, it has not been approved to treat Covid-19.

In fact, the FDA has warned that the drug can be dangerous in large doses. “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the FDA had tweeted last month.

And it appears Rogan is not alone. Several politicians and talk show hosts have promoted ivermectin, as a result of which, prescriptions for the drug soared to record levels in the US this year. From 3,600 units of the drug being sold on a weekly basis pre-pandemic, more than 88,000 were sold in a week last month, as per CDC data.

So, what is ivermectin?

Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug mostly used to treat livestock. Some versions of the drug have been used on humans since the 1980s, mainly in creams and lotions to treat head lice. But besides this, it is also used in a tablet form to cure roundworm infection and second-line treatment for scabies and rosacea, a skin condition that results in redness and causes pus-filled bumps on the face.

The dosage depends on a variety of factors, including weight, medical condition, and response to treatment. In large doses, ivermectin can lead to a number of side-effects, including “nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hypotension (low blood pressure), allergic reactions (itching and hives), dizziness, ataxia (problems with balance), seizures, coma and even death”, according to the CDC.

Can ivermectin be used to treat Covid-19?

Health experts have warned against the use of the drug to treat Covid. The American Medical Association (AMA) called for an “immediate end” to the use of ivermectin to treat the deadly virus, stating that it was alarmed by the exponential increase in the consumption of the drug since the onset of the pandemic.

In a blog post shared on its official website, titled ‘Why you should not use Ivermectin to treat or prevent Covid-19’, the FDA said, “Ivermectin tablets are approved at very specific doses for some parasitic worms, and there are topical (on the skin) formulations for head lice and skin conditions like rosacea. Ivermectin is not an anti-viral (a drug for treating viruses).” It also clarified that there is a sharp distinction between ivermectin products for animals and ivermectin medication for people.

Even Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) urged people not to use the drug. The regulator’s warning was prompted by a national shortage and a tenfold increase in Australians importing the drug.

Why has ivermectin gained popularity during Covid pandemic?

The drug gained popularity in the context of coronavirus after an Australian study last year suggested that it could kill covid in a lab.

A set of findings by Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute (BDI) and the Peter Doherty Institute of Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute), both in Australia, suggest that the drug can quickly prevent the replication of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

However, experts have since said that there is not enough evidence to prove the clinical efficacy of ivermectin for treating Covid.

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