It all started with a misleading headline and article from Rolling Stone Magazine, and now a hospital in Oklahoma has had to scramble to get the word out to its community that the hospital is operating normally.
Rolling Stone published an article citing Dr. Jason McElyea as its primary source. Dr. McElyea claimed Oklahoman hospitals were backed up and overflowing with patients who overdosed on the recently controversial drug ivermectin.
However, Northeastern Health System – Sequoyah hospital pushed back on the doctor’s claims. In a statement on the landing page of the hospital’s website, the hospital posted this message:
“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.
We want to reassure our community that our staff is working hard to provide quality healthcare to all patients. We appreciate the opportunity to clarify this issue and as always, we value our community’s support.”
Misinformation like the kind published by Rolling Stone can have very dangerous real-world effects. Patients who experience life-threatening emergencies may believe what they read in Rolling Stone (or others news sites which cite it as a source, such as the BBC, The Guardian, or even local outlets like Oklahoma News 4), and opt not to seek treatment at hospitals which they falsely believe are full. Patients who stay home may then choose to attempt self-treatment instead of consulting healthcare professionals. This puts both patients and healthcare providers at risk in the long term.
Rolling Stone also used a decidedly misleading photo of people lined up outside, implying the people are patients who can’t get inside a hospital due to an overflow of ivermectin-overdosed patients (who don’t even exist at NHS Sequoyah). Of course, if you click on their article and read the fine print, you’ll notice that the line of people in the photograph are from earlier this year, and they’re simply lined up to receive their COVID shots – not stranded outside due to a full hospital.
Many have had to learn the hard way that Rolling Stone has a very spotty track record when it comes to being a reliable source of information.
Of course, the damage has already been done though. While Rolling Stone has finally posted NHS Sequoyah’s statement in their reporting, they haven’t updated their misleading headline nor have they used a more accurate photo. It’s unlikely social media fact-checkers will intervene, either.
Despite approving ivermectin for human consumption decades ago, the FDA has since distanced itself from the drug as it focuses on pushing through approvals for COVID shots. To the befuddlement of the Tokyo Medical Association in Japan and health officials in Israel who have been using ivermectin to treat patients, America’s FDA recently began a campaign seeking to dismiss ivermectin as nothing more than a horse de-wormer.
The campaign seems to have worked, as many outlets falsely reported that popular podcast host Joe Rogan took a horse de-wormer to overcome his recent case of COVID. In reality, Rogan took the form of the drug designed for human consumption. While it is true that there is a form of ivermectin used to treat horses, it is not true that that is the form doctors use to treat humans.
To be fair to the FDA itself, there have been some isolated cases of desperate patients using non-human versions of the drug, which is extremely dangerous and ill-advised. And once you get past their silly “You are not a horse” headline, their actual full update about ivermectin does make a distinction between the human and animal versions.
Of course, that distinction is buried beneath their dismissive and condescending catchphrase, and hardly any news outlet is going through any lengths to make a distinction between the human and animals forms of ivermectin. Let’s be absolutely clear here: it is inaccurate to portray the majority of countries and people using ivermectin as “taking a horse de-wormer”. Most people are taking the appropriate version designed for human consumption.
The real question concerning ivermectin is whether or not it’s useful in treating COVID. On that topic, the verdict is still out. While there have been promising studies surrounding its usage as a treatment for COVID, at least one of those studies has been withdrawn. The only honest answer right now is that we don’t know if ivermectin is an effective treatment for COVID or not. There simply isn’t enough data backed up by solid research to either fully support or outright dismiss it as a treatment at this point.
That kind of direct, clear-headed, and nuanced analysis is what’s missing from the mainstream discourse surrounding not only ivermectin, but the COVID pandemic as a whole.