Joe Rogan returned from his battle with COVID-19 on Tuesday and began spreading misinformation on his podcast, where he pushed anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and touted ivermectin, a drug with no proven ability to treat the coronavirus.
The comedian claimed that he recovered from COVID-19 because of ivermectin, an anti-parasitic drug — not an anti-viral — that has sparked a firestorm of health misinformation in recent months.
Rogan revealed last week that he was recovering after testing positive for COVID-19 following a trip to Florida. He claimed that he was treated with “monoclonal antibodies, ivermectin, Z-Pak, prednisone, everything. I also got an NAD drip and a vitamin drip and I did that three days in a row.”
Monoclonal antibodies are an FDA-approved treatment for COVID-19 that can ease the severity of the disease. They have been used to treat severe cases of COVID-19, and were given to former U.S. president Donald Trump last year when he had the infectious disease.
But Rogan insisted on Tuesday that it was the ivermectin that cured him, without presenting specific evidence. He also blasted media reports and public health advice that contradicted his claims.
“They tried to make it seem like I’m doing some wacky s— that’s completely ineffective,” Rogan said. “What they didn’t highlight is that I got better.”
Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug that is primarily used to deworm horses. Human-compatible versions of the drug have also been used to control parasites, and one such use earned the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2015. Peer-reviewed scientific studies have found no evidence to date that it can be effective against COVID-19, a disease caused by a virus and not a parasite.
A large pre-print study claiming that ivermectin could be used to treat COVID-19 was withdrawn earlier this summer due to ethical and data issues.
Nevertheless, Canadian and U.S. health authorities have warned about a surge of interest in the animal-intended version of the stuff, as some anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists have embraced it as an alternative “treatment” to self-medicate against COVID-19. The horse dewormer is highly concentrated and can be toxic if ingested by humans.
“The FDA has not authorized or approved ivermectin for use in preventing or treating COVID-19 in humans or animals,” the FDA says on its website, adding that it can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, delirium and even death. “Taking large doses of this drug is dangerous and can cause serious harm.”
“Never use medications intended for animals on yourself or other people,” the FDA says.
In one case described by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a man drank an injectable form of ivermectin intended for cattle. He suffered hallucinations, confusion, tremors and other side effects before being hospitalized for nine days.
Pharmacists are authorized to prescribe ivermectin tablets to treat parasitic worms in humans, the FDA says. A topical version of the drug can also be used to treat head lice or skin conditions such as rosacea.
The World Health Organization (WHO), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other medical experts have also recommended against using ivermectin against COVID-19 outside of carefully controlled patient studies.
An NIH panel found “insufficient evidence” for or against the drug for COVID-19, calling for more large, well-designed trials.
An analysis of 14 different studies also found no evidence that it works, although data was limited and the researchers said more study is needed.
Rogan said his doctor prescribed him ivermectin, and that he got the human-safe version of it from Dr. Pierre Kory, who has pushed the drug on The Joe Rogan Experience in the past. Kory is the co-founder of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care (FLCCC) Alliance, a group that is aggressively pushing ivermectin online.
Kory has claimed that he is being “censored” after a journal rejected his paper about ivermectin due to several unsupported claims. “In our view, this paper does not offer an objective nor balanced scientific contribution,” the journal said in March.
Rogan also falsely claimed on his show that Japan had approved ivermectin for treating COVID-19. He appeared to be referring to comments made by Haruo Ozaki, chairman of the Tokyo Medical Association, which has no say in the decisions of the Japanese government.
Ozaki has said there is not enough evidence to prove that ivermectin does or does not work, but he’s cautiously suggested it’s worth trying due to the COVID-19 “crisis,” the AFP reports.
Rogan has cast doubt on COVID-19 treatments in the past, and once suggested that young and healthy people do not need a vaccine.
The 54-year-old revisited his vaccine skepticism on Tuesday, suggesting without evidence that governments were trying to push vaccines on their populations.
“You know, there is a lot of speculation,” he said. “One of the speculations involves the emergency use authorization for the vaccines. That, in order for there to be an emergency-use authorization, there has to be no treatment for a disease.”
The Pfizer vaccine is no longer under an emergency-use authorization. It was fully approved by the FDA last month.
Rogan also suggested that pharmaceutical companies were trying to suppress ivermectin in order to make more money, without providing evidence. “This is the grand conspiracy,” he said.
Ivermectin is manufactured by Merck, one of the top 10 richest pharmaceutical companies in the world. In February, Merck said that there was “no scientific basis” for using its drug to fight COVID-19. It also cited a “concerning lack of safety data in the majority of studies” related to ivermectin and COVID-19 patients.
The hype around ivermectin echoes a similar saga that played out last year around hydroxychloroquine, another unproven treatment that became popular among conspiracy theorists and some Republicans, including Donald Trump.
The NIH is currently studying ivermectin in a large trial comparing a half-dozen established drugs to see if they have some effect against COVID-19.
— With files from The Associated Press
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