Monday, September 6, 2021

Misinformation about ivermectin

by George J. Dance

As readers know, the blog is interested in possible treatments for Covid19. I do not think (like some) that vaccines make those unnecessary; even if it were true (which it is not) that vaccines provided complete protection against catching covid, they would still be useless for those who have already caught it. Plenty of people are still catching it these days, many of whom had no access to a vaccine anyway (either because it was not available, or due to government restrictions). So Covid medicines and treatments should concern us. 

One of the medicines I have blogged about is ivermectin (IVM); some of those stories have been encouraging, but the truth is still out there. We are a long way from having all the data we need on the drug's efficacy, or possibly (despite its 40 years of approved use as a human medicine) on its safety. That is why this weekend's news from Oklahoma was so alarming. I have seen plenty of stories about ivermectin poisoning before, but those usually concluded, like this recent report from Mississippi, that "No one has been hospitalized" from ingesting it. The news out of Oklahoma was different.    

According to the story, first reported on KFOR-TV (video below), eastern Oklahoma was seeing an epidemic of people being hospitalized for overdosing on IVM. So many were being hospitalized, in fact, that local hospitals were overwhelmed and on the verge of collapse. That story was picked up by, among others, BBC News, yahoo newsNewsweek, the New York Daily NewsThe Guardian, The IndependentMSN.com, and even Rolling Stone magazine. As the last reported, under the title "Gunshot Victims Left Waiting as Horse Dewormer Overdoses Overwhelm Oklahoma Hospitals, Doctor Says:"  

The rise in people using ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug usually reserved for deworming horses or livestock, as a treatment or preventative for Covid-19 has emergency rooms “so backed up that gunshot victims were having hard times getting” access to health facilities, an emergency room doctor in Oklahoma said.

This week, Dr. Jason McElyea told KFOR the overdoses are causing backlogs in rural hospitals, leaving both beds and ambulance services scarce.

“The ERs are so backed up that gunshot victims were having hard times getting to facilities where they can get definitive care and be treated,” McElyea said.

“All of their ambulances are stuck at the hospital waiting for a bed to open so they can take the patient in and they don’t have any, that’s it,” said McElyea. “If there’s no ambulance to take the call, there’s no ambulance to come to the call.”

The doctor added that IVM OD victims "have arrived at hospitals with negative reactions like nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, and cramping — or even loss of sight. 'The scariest one that I’ve heard of and seen is people coming in with vision loss,' the doctor said."

The one thing that amazed me was that there was no attempt to corroborate Dr. McElyea's report, or to factcheck it either; it was reported as a factual account requiring no independent support. Rolling Stone did cite a story in Tulsa World, which reported that  "a rural emergency room physician, had a gunshot victim in his facility whom for hours he was unable to transfer to a higher level of care because no one had space." However, (1) the gist of that article was that patients suffering from Covid (not IVM overdoses), which were not mentioned) were causing the problem; and (2) the physician in question turned out to be Dr. McElyea.  

Not one of the media outlets running the story bothered to pick up a telephone, or get onto the internet, and check with a single Oklahoma hospital. Only one source, BBC News, bothered even to speak with Dr. McElyea to verify his quotes. What McElyea told the BBC, though, was only that "a 'handful' of people overdosing on [IVM] were putting further strain on hospital staff already stretched by a surge in Covid cases." Oklahoma hospitals were being overwhelmed, but by Covid cases, not by "horse dewormer overdoses."

After reading the BBC story, I began thinking that McElyea's original remarks had been either misunderstood, or misrepresented for the sake of a better story, by the KFOR reporter, Katelynn Ogle. Meanswhile, over at Reason magazine, Robby Soave had reached a similar conclusion:

One might be tempted to blame McElyea for embellishing his story.... But a closer look at the KFOR story reveals something quite startling: At no point did McElyea actually come out and say that ivermectin overdoses were straining hospitals.... McElyea clearly states that ivermectin overdoses have been a problem, and he claims that some hospitals are dealing with strain. But he never actually connects these two issues. It was the journalist, Ogle, who added that framing. She did not respond to a request for comment.

Eventually a statement was issued by an Oklahoma hospital where Dr. McElyea has worked. There turned out to a few discrepancies between their account and the TV station's: 

Although Dr. Jason McElyea is not an employee of NHS Sequoyah, he is affiliated with a medical staffing group that provides coverage for our emergency room. With that said, Dr. McElyea has not worked at our Sallisaw location in over 2 months. NHS Sequoyah has not treated any patients due to complications related to taking ivermectin. This includes not treating any patients for ivermectin overdose. All patients who have visited our emergency room have received medical attention as appropriate. Our hospital has not had to turn away any patients seeking emergency care. 

Once again, no hospitalizations due to use of IVM. But that was not the end of the story. A day later, a second hospital had issued its own statement, which confirmed Dr. McElyea's claims about IVM overdoses. However, the same statement also noted that the doctor had repudiated the KFOR story: 

Jason McElyea, D.O. ... has privileges at INTEGRIS Grove Hospital. He also works in several other emergency departments in rural Oklahoma. There is a lot of media attention surrounding remarks reportedly made by Dr. McElyea. While we do not speak on his behalf, he has publicly said his comments were misconstrued and taken out of context. What we can confirm is that we have seen a handful of ivermectin patients in our emergency rooms.... And ... while our hospitals are not filled with people who have taken ivermectin, such patients are adding to the congestion already caused by COVID-19 and other emergencies. 

That looks like the end of the story. Dr. McElyea had told KFOR-TV about this "handful" of IVM overdoses (the same word the BBC quoted him as using), some of which might have led to hospitalization (though the hospital does not confirm that any did). KFOR-TV selectively used the good doctor's recorded comments to construct a piece of fake news, and thereby spread misinformation.  


Updated, September 8, 2021.

1 comment:

  1. If health of the people was the primary concern then from the moment Covid is diagnosed Diagnosed to completion there would be a huge push for treatment of symptoms. The CDC guidelines only have suggestions of now not to further spread the disease.
    Why? Infact the official line and the jackals seem determined to ridicule any form of treatment - Treatments that work quite well like Ivermectin and are quite inexpensive.

    When it generally becomes known that 50% of those who suffered and died needlessly because pre hospitalization treatments were shunned there must be a massive investigation at a minimum.

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