Ivermectin Fans Are Back With Even Weirder Drugs for Your COVID

·5 min read
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty

Is your anti-worm medication failing to treat COVID-19? Not to worry, says one of the loudest organizations promoting anti-worm medication for COVID patients: Try adding a cocktail of anti-depressants and androgen inhibitors to your medical mix.

No major health organizations recommend the use of ivermectin (an anti-parasitic drug) in the treatment of COVID-19 (a virus). “Ivermectin has not been shown to be safe or effective for these indications,” the Food and Drug Administration advises. Nevertheless, the medication has found an avid fanbase, especially in alternative medicine and anti-vaccine circles, where ivermectin enthusiasts have taken veterinary versions of the drug and led to a massive spike in calls to poison control centers.

But despite championing ivermectin as a “miracle drug against COVID-19,” one of the medication’s biggest hype-groups is now promoting additional treatments, in case the miracle fails.

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The “Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance,” one of the leading groups promoting ivermectin, now lists a variety of backup drugs, including the anti-depressant Prozac and the anti-androgens spironolactone and dutasteride.

FLCCC has been recommending the alternative-alternative medications for some months, but the dubious advice went viral this week when Twitter users spotted it on FLCCC’s newly updated treatment plan, and when the FLCCC’s leader appeared on Fox News on Sunday to flog the new treatment.

The FLCCC did not return a request for comment.

Online, the FLCCC’s new recommendations raised eyebrows among people who already take those medications. Like ivermectin, which is used to fight parasitic infections, drugs like prozac are regularly prescribed for non-COVID purposes, like treating depression. But FLCCC’s recommended initial prozac dose of up to 40mg exceeds Mayo Clinic recommendations of just 20mg for most new patients. (The Mayo Clinic does recommend a higher dose for treating bulimia nervosa.) Oversight groups also warn new prozac patients to be on the lookout for potentially severe side effects like suicidal thoughts.

Androgen suppressants, meanwhile, have a variety of uses, including treating hair loss and acne. They are also well known for their use in transgender health care, Media Matters noted after the FLCCC promoted the drugs on Fox News this weekend. The FLCCC recommended COVID patients take 100mg of the anti-androgen spironolactone daily, which is the Mayo Clinic’s recommended starting dose for feminizing hormone therapy. “This blocks male sex hormone (androgen) receptors and can suppress testosterone production,” the Mayo Clinic describes, although higher doses have been described as safe in treating hair loss in cisgender women. A different FLCCC document from October reveals that the group previously recommended 200mg of spironolactone per day, which is the highest starting dose recommended for feminizing hormone therapy.

In “severe” cases, the FLCCC recommends taking spironolactone alongside other anti-androgens, as well as ivermectin and prozac: a cocktail the group calls the “Full Monty.”

“While it is unclear which of the above medications included in the ‘Severe Covid-19’ cocktail contributes to improved outcomes,” the FLCCC notes, “all of these drugs have been shown to be safe and independently to improve the outcome of patients with COVID-19.”

It’s a dubious claim.

Ivermectin’s efficacy in COVID-19 cases is still being studied—a process that has been complicated by ivermectin mega-fans repeatedly conducting flawed studies, which have later been retracted.

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The FLCCC has been responsible for some of the most prominent retractions. In 2021, the group’s leaders submitted a journal paper arguing that their ivermectin-based treatment plan called “MATH+” drastically reduced COVID-19 deaths, compared to patients treated with different medications. The journal retracted the paper in November, after a hospital complained that FLCCC had warped its patient data.

The hospital claimed that patients treated with the MATH+ protocol were actually much more likely to die.

“Of those 191 patients [cited in the FLCCC study], only 73 patients (38.2%) received at least 1 of the 4 MATH+ therapies, and their mortality rate was 24.7%,” the hospital wrote. The figure was more than double the hospital’s overall COVID mortality rate of 10.5 percent during the period of the study.

“Only 25 of 191 patients (13.1%) received all 4 MATH+ therapies, and their mortality rate was 28%,” the hospital’s complaint continued.

FLCCC leaders also had papers retracted from journals in March 2021 and December 2020, after they cited flawed or unsubstantiated data.

Like hydroxychloroquine before them, ivermectin and the new recommended drugs have been embraced by vaccine opponents. The FLCCC states that it is “not opposed to vaccination, and furthermore supports policies such as mask wearing, social distancing, and hand hygiene.”

But references to vaccines are relatively sparse on the website, often listed in tandem with warnings that they do not prevent all COVID-19 infections.

“Vaccines have shown some efficacy in preventing the most severe outcomes of COVID-19 however, rising vaccine breakthrough infection rates do not support the rationale for mandates,” a disclaimer on the group’s website reads. “[...] Any decision on medical treatment, including vaccines, should be made in consultation with a health care provider.”

The group’s failure to incorporate vaccines into its official protocols prompted one former member to quit the group.

“If you’re going to have a page that’s dedicated to ‘How do you prevent yourself from getting COVID?’ that page can’t not have vaccines at the top of it,” the former member told Business Insider, adding that he’d come to the realization that “I’m part of a group whose influence may be contributing to people making the choice not to get vaccinated.”

The FLCCC homepage currently promotes a radio show conversation between one of its doctors and Amanda Chase, a Virginia state senator who—in addition to repeatedly working and speaking alongside far-right extremists—has elected to stand inside a plexiglass box during legislative procedures instead of wearing a mask. When Chase fell ill last year, a spokesperson told The Daily Beast that she would not take a COVID test, in part because she sold fitness milkshakes via a multi-level marketing company.

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