By Emel Akan
WASHINGTON–A group of Republican lawmakers threw their support behind doctors who advocate for the right to use ivermectin, an inexpensive antiparasitic drug, for treating COVID-19.
Ivermectin is the latest drug caught in controversy after demand surged dramatically in August. Physician and pharmacist groups, including the American Medical Association “strongly oppose” the prescribing of ivermectin to treat COVID-19 patients. Federal health agencies also issued warnings recently to prevent the use of the drug, stating that “adverse effects associated with ivermectin misuse and overdose are increasing.”
Critical care physician Pierre Kory, however, describes correctly administered ivermectin as “a gift” in the fight against COVID-19.
“I know ivermectin works. I’ve been using it to treat patients for 10 months now,” Kory told The Epoch Times.
During the pandemic, Kory led intensive care units in several hotspots, including New York City. He is one of the founding members of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, which “strongly recommends” the use of ivermectin in both the prevention and treatment of the virus.
Kory briefed more than 20 members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus on Sept. 27 about the efficacy of the drug.
During the briefing, Kory claimed that ivermectin has helped reduce COVID-19 deaths by 88 percent with early treatment and by about 75 percent in cases of hospitalization, based on data from Mexico City and Misiones, a province in Argentina where a large number of patients were treated with ivermectin.
Kory also said COVID cases significantly dropped in Uttar Pradesh, which was the first state in India to introduce large-scale use of ivermectin during the peak of the delta surge in the country.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who joined the briefing, criticized the efforts to quash access to the drug as a treatment for COVID-19. Johnson has been a vocal advocate for COVID-19 treatments beyond vaccines, including ivermectin. A possible explanation for the resistance “has to do with money,” he told The Epoch Times.
“The vaccine has been worth billions to these companies. Is that what’s driving this? I would like to think that’s not the case,” he said. “How many lives could have been saved had our federal health agencies robustly explored all these generic drugs?”
Ivermectin is an FDA-approved antiparasitic drug that has been used safely for more than three decades in the treatment of certain worm infections. The two doctors who developed ivermectin received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2015 “for improving the health and wellbeing of millions of individuals with River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis, primarily in the poorest regions of the world.”
While ivermectin was not developed to treat viruses, an increasing number of doctors around the world believe in the efficacy of the drug against the COVID-19.
Over 88,000 ivermectin prescriptions were reported in the United States in the second week of August, which is 24 times higher than the pre-pandemic level, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published an article warning against use of the drug, stating that many have been taking the one intended for animals.
“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the agency posted on Twitter on Aug. 21.
Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a member of the Freedom Caucus and one of the supporters of allowing people the right to try ivermectin, criticized federal agencies and the media for smearing the drug as “horse treatment.”
In an interview with The Epoch Times, Gohmert called the efforts to suppress the use of ivermectin as “dishonesty,” which is preventing people from having access to an FDA-approved drug that is inexpensive and widely available. He likened these efforts to the disinformation tactics used for decades by the tobacco industry to dismiss the health risks of smoking.
“It goes beyond being wrong. It gets virtually to being criminal,” Gohmert said.
The FDA warned that it has not yet approved ivermectin “for use in preventing or treating COVID-19.” The agency said that the “currently available data do not show ivermectin is effective” against the virus, adding that the clinical trials are ongoing.
According to Kory, FDA approval for ivermectin use to treat COVID-19 is not required for off-label prescriptions. Off-label use refers to using an approved drug to treat a different type of disease that the drug is not approved to treat. Nearly 20 percent of all prescriptions written in the United States are off-label.
There are now threats from medical boards to take away licenses from doctors who prescribe ivermectin, Kory said.
“I cannot describe the harm, and the tragedy, and the actual humanitarian crisis that this is causing,” he said.