Profits Before People: Civilians Denied Cheap and Effective Therapeutics

Newsweek ran with this headline today: “Ohio Judge Orders Hospital to Treat COVID-19 Patient with Deworming Drug Ivermectin.” The magazine is manipulating its audience. The judge ordered the hospital to treat COVID-19 with ivermectin authorized for use in humans. Ivermectin is listed on the WHO’s 2019 Model List of Essential Medicines under the category anti-infective medication, a model list applying to humans, not horses or other mammals. As Newsweek was running this headline, The Daily Beast was running this one: “Don’t Negotiate With Trump’s Disease-Spreading Zombie Army.” The author of the story, Wajahat Ali, is a fanatic.

Many of the drugs used for individuals of one animal species are effective and safely used in the treatment of individuals of other animal species. It makes sense when you consider that all mammals have a common ancestor. As I warned in a recent blog, we ignore scientific materialism at our peril (see Are We Forgetting Darwin?). Hundreds of drugs approved for use in cats, dogs, and horses contain active ingredients indicated for purposes identical to drugs used in human populations. They’re generic equivalents.

Ivermectin preparation for deworming horses

What’s the difference between ivermectin used in humans and horses? Brand name, dosing, and delivery. If you talk to those who work around animals (farmers, horse trainers, veterinarian staff), if they are forthright, and before the corporate propaganda campaign against ivermectin they has little reason not to be, they will admit to taking the drugs they give their animals. They understand which drugs work for which ailments and in what amounts. Now they have to worry about people looking at them in horror because they used a horse dewormer as a prophylactic or treatment for COVID-19. But that will only stop them from telling you about it.

In the May-June article, “Review of the Emerging Evidence Demonstrating the Efficacy of Ivermectin in the Prophylaxis and Treatment of COVID-19,” published in the American Journal of Therapeutics, researchers found that ivermectin is highly effective in the treatment of COVID-19. “Meta-analyses based on 18 randomized controlled treatment trials of ivermectin in COVID-19 have found large, statistically significant reductions in mortality, time to clinical recovery, and time to viral clearance. Furthermore, results from numerous controlled prophylaxis trials report significantly reduced risks of contracting COVID-19 with the regular use of ivermectin. Finally, the many examples of ivermectin distribution campaigns leading to rapid population-wide decreases in morbidity and mortality indicate that an oral agent effective in all phases of COVID-19 has been identified.”

A July-August article from the same journal, “Ivermectin for Prevention and Treatment of COVID-19 Infection: A Systematic Review, Meta-analysis, and Trial Sequential Analysis to Inform Clinical Guidelines,” also found the drug to be effective in the treatment and prevention of COVID-19. In fact, the evidence indicates “that large reductions in COVID-19 deaths are possible using ivermectin.” Their study assessed 24 randomized controlled trials involving 3406 participants. “Using ivermectin early in the clinical course may reduce numbers progressing to severe disease. The apparent safety and low cost suggest that ivermectin is likely to have a significant impact on the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic globally.” (You will find a good review of the data here.)

Doctors have long been empowered to prescribe off label. But pharmacists are not prescribing or filling prescriptions for ivermectin. Why? We live in a monopoly capitalist society where the regulatory agencies of the state apparatus have been captured by corporate influence and power. The truth is that cheap and effective therapeutics for COVID-19 aren’t profitable. Vaccines, on the other hand, are generating enormous profits. Pfizer’s mRNA platform is on track to generate sales of more than 33 billion dollars this year. Moderna is reporting that advance purchase agreements for 2021 represent more than $19 billion in sales. Profit lies in novel commodities and patents and control over demand. For these reasons, pharmaceutical companies have never been much interested in repurposing their drugs unless it gives a drug a new lease on life.* There is no money in ivermectin (same with hydroychloriquine). So don’t take it. (I cannot rule out that Trump derangement syndrome isn’t behind some of this.)

If authorities don’t want civilians taking ivermectin branded as horse dewormer, then they should stop denying civilians access to ivermectin branded for use in humans. Because it’s the same drug with the same benefits and the same safety profile. People are getting sick and dying because they are being denied the drugs they need to stay healthy and save their lives—and they are being shamed away from seeking those drugs by relentless mocking and ridicule. We are always hearing about the the “antivaxer” dying of COVID-19. How many people have died after refusing ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine because MSNBC told them it was horse dewormer? Where are those news stories?

* A notable exception to the reluctance to repurpose (but not the only one) is Sarafem, brandname for fluoxetine hydrochloride, an SSRI used in the treatment of PMDD. Fluoxetine hydrochloride is also known as Prozac, marketed for the treatment of depression. SSRIs work in nonhuman animals, as well. Fluoxetine hydrochloride is used to treat a variety of behavioral and mood disorders in dogs and cats. For example, it is used in the treatment of separation anxiety in canines.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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