Thursday, November 18, 2021

Scott Siskind on Ivermectin

Scott Siskind has a long post on Ivermectin that I find fascinating and important. The basic story is this:

Early in the Covid pandemic, doctors and hospitals around the world tried all sorts of treatments, and when one of them seemed promising, many tried running small experimental trials. This was, I think, a very impressive expression of the extent of scientific prowess in the world, as hospitals from Bangladesh to Colombia experimented with different treatment regimens and published their results. Of course most of those trials were not very good, because they were necessarily small and conducted in the midst of a pandemic that was stretching hospitals to their limits. But people tried.

One finding that emerged from those trials was that Ivermectin, a common treatment for roundworm and other parasites, seemed to have a positive effect against Covid-19. Siskind goes through all of these trials and finds that while a few were fraudulent and most were bad, some were pretty good, really as good as one could expect under the circumstances. The three best to show positive results were from Bangladesh, India, and Colombia.

So word started to circulate on the Internet that Ivermectin was an effective treatment for Covid-19. The WHO and the US CDC denounced this and said it was nonsense, but they did not offer any rebutting evidence beyond "that's a treatment for worms, why would it effect a virus?" Neither the WHO nor the CDC was exactly covering itself with glory back then, what with the reversals over masking and quarantines and so on. So around the world people started dosing themselves with Ivermectin against Covid.

Here's the first important question: what does it mean to "trust the science"? Does that mean "listen to the CDC", which had already reversed itself on every important Covid-related question? Or does it mean "believe these two dozen studies from around the world that show Ivermectin is effective"? Another factor that played into this, in the US, was suspicion of pharmaceutical companies, everybody suspecting that they wanted Ivermectin downplayed because it is off-patent and very cheap. If you pretended to own a horse you could even get it without a prescription. This was a case where if you "did your own research", early in the pandemic, you would genuinely have found that the large majority of the available studies flatly contradicted the advice that the CDC and the WHO were giving.

This stirred the western medical establishment to investigate, and this summer we got the results of two larger, more rigorous trials, one in Canada and one in Argentina, that found no effect. But by that point belief in the efficacy of Ivermectin was already entrenched in the folk culture and the debate over it had become a political mud-slinging match.

Science is hard, and when it become tangled with politics it gets even harder.  People believe in a vast number of questionable medical practices partly because the establishment is wrong all the time, and because, occasionally, offbeat remedies really do outperform what the establishment doctors are pushing. Slogans like "trust the science" just don't capture the complexity of the world. If you want a serious look at that complexity, read Siskind's post.


Incidentally, if you are wondering why those studies about Ivermectin found positive effects, look at where they were carried out: Bangladesh, India, and Colombia, all countries where roundworms are a serious problem. If you get really sick with Covid-19 they give you steroids to depress parts of your immune system. If you happen to be infected with roundworms or some other parasite, that can cause them to explode, giving you a "hyperinfection" that can kill you. If you dig deep enough into obscure parts of the Covid-19 guidance provided by the WHO you find that they actually recommend giving Covid patients with roundworm infections Ivermectin to prevent this. So co-infection with worms might explain why Ivermectin seems to help in the tropics but not in Canada or Argentina.


Anonymous said...

You would be better served by doing your own research rather than relying on propaganda outlets like WaPo. There are over 81 clinical trials currently underway for Ivermectin from all over the world, including the United States.

I simply cannot understand why so many liberals and progressives who were formerly critical thinkers and suspicious of big pharma and government bureaucrats, are willing to uncritically accept experimental treatment being served up by big pharma and big government. How many proven lies will it take before people wake up?

You are participating in the worlds largest medical experiment and don't even realize it. The new mRNA vaccines are still under EUA authorization, are experimental gene therapy and there is currently no FDA approved vaccine in production and available to the public despite what the media purports. Comirnaty is not in production. Why not?

Millions are dying of adverse side effects that are being purposely hidden from the public. Even if you believe that a majority of VAERS reported side effects are fraudulent (false reporting is a crime), the alternative is that there is no system of reporting. Are you comfortable with that? No one stops to ask why so many doctors, nurses, PHDs, scientists, and even NIH and CDC employees remain unvaccinated. And now we are vaccinating children who have almost no risk from the virus? Prepare for an explosion of heart conditions in children and more gaslighting by the media as this is perfectly normal...a result of climate change, marijuana, anything but the vaccines.

The truth is that we have no longitudinal studies, the government has a documented history of lying to the public from the origins of the virus to the effectiveness of the masks and vaccines, to the side effects. The pharma companies are making billions, are protected from all liability, and have a well documented history of lawsuits for defective products. Our politicians are interested in power, control and financial gains (almost every congressman is heavily invested in big pharma). This is madness!

No one wants to see anyone get sick or God forbid die, but we are not even allowed to ask questions and anyone who dares to ask questions or try alternative methods of therapeutic treatments is immediately labeled a spreader of misinformation, is demonized and threatened with both social and punitive cancellation. Why?

Shadow said...

One thing that makes the scientific process so wonderful is self-correction -- science corrects itself. If the findings of scientific research and testing weren't prone to correction, then self-correction wouldn't be as important as it is. So the question is a good one: 'when to trust the science'?

Let me suggest a possible when: when there has been sufficient research and testing done, and the findings aggregate around a single data point. That's when you can start trusting the science. But remember, it is always subject to correction. (Have we found a cause, or is it a correlation?) Unfortunately, we don't always have the luxury of waiting until everyone is satisfied.

There are no guarantees, not even in science or with vaccines. I am vaccinated because I believe competent people doing the research have done the very best they can do under rushed and less than ideal circumstances *AND* because I'm of an age where my immune system is not what it used to be. I am also aware that because of my age long-term effects aren't as important to me as they are to a twenty-something or an 8-year-old. If I were younger, I may have made a different decision.

The risk doesn't bother me; it comes with living and with age. I feel more for the younger ones. What bothers me is the condescending attitude of many news anchors and pundits. 'Trust the science' has become a club for ending discussion. The implication being you should do what you're told -- not always great advice.

PS: The excellent good-citizen argument that you should get vaccinated to protect others, especially the immune-deficient and elderly, was forever crippled when it was learned getting vaccinated doesn't prevent you from transmitting the disease.

PPS: We now have a pill on the horizon. I hope vaccinations combined with an effective pill end the sniping back and forth and all the masks, mandates, and ultimatums.

G. Verloren said...

Here's the first important question: what does it mean to "trust the science"? Does that mean "listen to the CDC", which had already reversed itself on every important Covid-related question? Or does it mean "believe these two dozen studies from around the world that show Ivermectin is effective"?

There's an old Scottish proverb: "A wise man wavers, a fool is fixed."

It bothers me deeply that we view changing one's stance on something as evidence against one's trustworthiness. What could be more prudent than changing your stance as new information arises? What could be more scientific?

And what could be less scientific than to cling to the unproven findings of two dozen preliminary studies rather than waiting for more in-depth results? Why is it the people who are most "vaccine hesitant" also tend to be the same ones most likely to rush out and buy veterinary-grade livestock deworming medication based purely on rumors they read on Facebook and Twitter, and then not even attempt to cut the dose down to human levels?

This was a case where if you "did your own research", early in the pandemic, you would genuinely have found that the large majority of the available studies flatly contradicted the advice that the CDC and the WHO were giving.

This also bothers me, because it confuses what is actually meant by "doing your own research". The CDC's highly trained experts have seen those exact same available studies and discounted them, but John Q. Public who has zero knowledge of the matter is fit to judge for himself whether those studies are reliable and arrive at the opposite determination? That's insanity.

If you don't have the knowledge required to properly understand something, you are not fit to judge it! A layman looking at a medical study that they do not fully understand is likely to arrive at flawed conclusions, because reality frequently doesn't remotely match intuition or common sense. What may seem sensible to the average person can very easily be utterly wrong, because so much of the world is so flatly counter-intuitive. As the great Carl Sagan put it, "Our common sense intuitions can be mistaken. Our preferences don't count. We do not live in a privileged reference frame."

Common sense and intuition tell us that the world is flat; that the earth is the center of the solar system and the universe; that a ten pound weight will fall faster than a five pound one; that a giraffe has more vertebrae in its neck than a human does; that if you get tails on many coin flips in a row, then the next flip is much more likely to be heads; that the average cloud couldn't possibly weigh in excess of one million pounds; et cetera, et cetera.

"Trusting the science" means recognizing that your common sense and intuition can lead you astray, and that you are not fit to "do your own research" in the sense of deciding for yourself if a study is applicable or not. It means trusting the people who actually ARE fit to judge things - and trusting that if organizations like the CDC and the WHO aren't impressed by the available studies, it's probably for a very good reason - even if your common sense intuition doesn't match.

"Doing your own research" means either educating yourself to the point that you are fit to judge on your own, or it means (more realistically) finding the most knowledgeable and reliable sources and seeing what they say about things. If the CDC and the WHO both aren't convinced by two dozen preliminary studies, then it's pretty safe to assume there's more going on with those studies than is obvious, and you shouldn't trust them until further information and data comes out.

G. Verloren said...

The three best to show positive results were from Bangladesh, India, and Colombia.

I wonder if there is a mistake of causation going on here somewhere.

These three countries are, to my understanding, plagued by a large degree of poor sanitation and healthcare. One might then assume that parasitic worms are more common among the populace. Such parasites would quite naturally impede the immune response to COVID-19. A drug which combated such parasites would quite naturally be a relative boost to the immune system, which would in turn help people fight off and recover from COVID-19. And no one would know any better unless patients were being screens for such parasites in the first place, which they almost certainly were not.

Shadow said...

"It bothers me deeply that we view changing one's stance on something as evidence against one's trustworthiness."

Well, it depends. Ted Cruz changes his stance, and I'm pretty sure that's because he's an opportunist and untrustworthy. But you were probably talking about normal people.

And I'm sure my common sense and intuition tell me nothing about the shape of the earth. I can't find my way home without GPS.

Anonymous said...

Trust the science, these vaccines are totally safe for children they said:

▪️Taiwan suspends 2nd Pfizer vaccine for 12-17
▪️Iceland suspends Moderna for all ages
▪️Sweden suspends Moderna for under 30
▪️Finland suspends Moderna for under 30
▪️Denmark suspends Moderna for under 18
▪️Norway suspends Moderna for under 18
▪️France suspends Moderna for under 30
▪️Germany suspends Moderna for under 30

Meanwhile, the United States is pushing these same vaccines for children as young as 5.

G. Verloren said...


No credible medical professional has ever claimed that any vaccine is "totally safe", for children or otherwise. That's utter nonsense at best, if not outright bad faith strawman erecting.

There's always at least a small chance of adverse reactions in any vaccine - that's just the nature of the beast, and is true of literally all medicine. But that small chance doesn't exist in a vacuum. You have to compare it to other risks - like the risks of NOT being vaccinated, which are massive in comparison.

The Moderna vaccine was more than "good enough" given the crisis conditions of a global epidemic killing untold millions. It wasn't perfect, and it had risks, but those risks were astronomically preferable to the risks of the actual disease itself.

The reason we're seeing certain countries suspend the Moderna vaccine's usage now is that the crisis is no longer quite so pressing in those countries, with vaccines no longer being in critically short supply - and they can now afford to rely exclusively on superior vaccines like Pfizer's instead.

Note that all the countries you list are modern, affluent, industrialized countries that are privileged enough to be first in line for vaccine supplies. People in impoverished and developing countries that are still critically short of vaccines are not remotely prepared to turn up their noses at Moderna's vaccine, because they need every vaccine they can get their hands on - and because the risks of the Moderna vaccine are still utterly minuscule compared to the risks of leaving people unvaccinated against the pandemic. In an ideal situation, where they had the option to pick and choose, obviously they would prefer to use only the very best vaccines - but the difference is just too small to matter while vaccines shortages are still a thing.

To use a metaphor - if you have your choice of life preservers, you can afford to pick only the best ones. But if you're actively throwing limited numbers of them to shipwrecked people drowning in a storm at sea, you're not going to stop to care if some of them contain carcinogenic materials which have a chance of hurting people.

Obviously, once you have more than enough for everyone, you're going to want to stop using the inferior option - but until you actually DO have more than enough, the downsides are just too small to care about compared to people actively dying for lack of resources.