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Rebel Wisdom

Has The Case For Ivermectin Been Hijacked By Anti-Vaccine Activists?

This article was written by Ed Prideaux (Twitter: @EdPrideaux) in collaboration with David Fuller.

For the last few months, there has been mounting controversy around claims that the anti-parasite drug ivermectin could be a highly effective treatment and prophylactic (prevention) for COVID-19. But has the case for the drug been hijacked and infiltrated by anti-vaccine sceptics?

This is the view of Dr Eric Osgood MD, who until a few days ago was part of the main advocacy group for ivermectin, the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC). In an interview with Rebel Wisdom, Osgood expressed deep regret that his advocacy for the drug had been used by others to argue against the use of vaccines — and said that the media messaging for the FLCCC was increasingly overtaking the medical messaging and flirting with vaccine scepticism.

Best-known for their work with ivermectin, the FLCCC’s advocacy of the drug has attracted controversy. While the institutional consensus is clear that ivermectin requires more and better evidence for a rollout, Kory and the FLCCC have made ivermectin a central remedy in their protocols, and have also suggested that it is so effective as a prophylactic that it can be taken instead of vaccines — moves that have brought some measure of clampdown (to the FLCCC, censorship) by social media platforms and tech firms.

In a Congressional testimony now-deleted from YouTube — although Kory did admit regretting the strength of his language — Kory even deemed it a “miracle drug”. Kory made clear his stance in an article for Inside Sources this month: “…Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke longingly of a pill that could beat COVID-19. “Give me that and I’ll be really happy,” he said.

“Good news, Dr. Fauci: one already exists. It’s called ivermectin. Now if only health organizations would let doctors use it and the media would stop censoring those arguing its promise.’

In his Twitter announcement on August 22nd, however, Dr Eric Osgood — the group’s former Physician Associate — apologised and expressed concern over the FLCCC and Kory’s drift over time into more partisan and polarising stances. “I am truly sorry for any role I served in the turn this took”, he said, writing of the group’s worrying overlap with vaccine-sceptical voices and its reticence in explicitly recommending jabs in treatment protocols.

“I still think this medicine [ivermectin] will turn out to have a beneficial adjunctive role and needs to continue undergoing study. But [chemoprophylaxis] does not supplant vaccines ever, and a tacit neutral position is not acceptable.”

In his interview with Rebel Wisdom, Dr Osgood argued that his concerns were widely shared behind the scenes at the FLCCC, and emotionally described the “sleepless nights” that compelled him to speak out.

Formed of well-reputed doctors now on the fringe, the FLCCC and Dr Pierre Kory have proved deeply influential in their alternative pandemic approach. Through high-profile appearances on The Dark Horse podcast and The Joe Rogan Experience — and the cross-promotion of popular podcaster Bret Weinstein, who himself has appeared with Lex Fridman, Tucker Carlson, Bill Maher and Megyn Kelly — Kory’s ivermectin advocacy is likely linked to a surge in demand for and interest in ivermectin around the world, and a corresponding rise in prices for the usually-cheap drug.

This week, ivermectin appeared in the media and institutional mainstream, too, with recent features in The New York Times and The Guardian on a statement by the FDA, which called on American patients to stop self-administering veterinary ivermectin after reports of hospitalisations. Elsewhere, recent reports suggested that the Tokyo Medical Association had expressed enhanced interest in ivermectin (although the real picture proved more complicated), and Kory was even given a Leadership Award and a $100,000 grant from the Malaysian Government to expand FLCCC projects.

In the background, though, Dr Eric Osgood had been stewing on growing concerns about the FLCCC’s “tacit neutrality” on vaccines. He works as the Medical Director of Mission Hospitalists at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, New Jersey.

Osgood claims that the case for ivermectin — and the messaging of the FLCCC itself — has been hijacked by vaccine-sceptical forces online and in the alternative media. In other words, the media is driving the medicine, and not the other way around.

“There was no media team when the group came together, just a group of doctors, and they think that when you get media people involved, the project becomes ‘Get the word out. You’ve got to get the word out. We’ve got to raise awareness. We’ve gotta get the message out.’

“But unfortunately, the message has become kind of a mess… I don’t think [the FLCCC are] putting out an anti-vaccine stance”, Osgood cautioned. “I just think that they are really being very careful in terms of not coming out with a full throated support [for it]”, possibly being that “a lot of their supporters are not really thrilled about vaccines.”

“What I would say is, I don’t know if I can say most [of the FLCCC], but the doctors in the group that I’ve spoken to”, Osgood says, “agreed with me and thanked me and felt the same way and said, ‘I can’t really do this anymore either. This is crazy.’”

Pierre Kory has argued that the FLCCC believe ivermectin is a “bridge to vaccines” and “an important part of a multi-modal strategy that must also include early treatment”, but an inspection of both their public statements and open-access protocols, including the I-MASK+ prevention regimen, shows little-to-no mention of vaccines. The protocol does make room for ivermectin, zinc, melatonin, and even “gargle mouthwash”, though.

“I think if you’re going to have a page dedicated to the measures that are going to prevent you from getting ill based on the evidence, well, it would naturally have to have vaccines at the very top of that”, Osgood said.

Osgood calls Dr Pierre Kory, the co-founder and President of the FLCCC, an “old school” doctor: a well-reputed clinician with deep care for his patients and a strong grip on clinical evidence. When the pandemic hit, though, Kory’s approach started changing.

Where before he showed caution, many doctors Rebel Wisdom have spoken to who knew and respected Kory have described a growing absolutism in his thinking and convictions. It began with the controversy around Kory and the FLCCC’s early advocacy for blood thinners and corticosteroids: regimens that were ultimately vindicated, but which won them harsh scrutiny and sidelining from the medical establishment.

“They got really criticised and attacked at the time. And then once the evidence was supportive, the narrative was just kind of like, ‘Yeah, you got lucky’”, including in statements by the editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. “And I mean, I don’t know how I would psychologically react to that. I don’t think I would like it.”

The political psychodrama of Kory’s Congressional testimony — during which he called ivermectin a “miracle drug” — was radicalising, too. The sit-down was arranged by the Senator Ron Johnson, who brought in a variety of fringe medical figures promoting different treatments and repurposed drugs. Many of the doctors who appeared were, “let’s just say, highly unconventional”, Osgood says, and it prompted present Democrats to get up and leave, describing the event as a political stunt.

“When I saw Pierre take the microphone and testify, I could see that he was rattled and offended and hurt. I think deeply hurt.”

Beyond the reticence he noticed in the FLCCC’s messaging, a red flag for Osgood was the change towards vaccine scepticism in his own social media following after he joined the group. “I started seeing more and more people with those extreme views gravitating toward me and following me, and it became very clearly obvious that there was a gigantic overlap [of anti-vaccine activists] with people who were zealous about this medicine.”

When Osgood tweeted that he was in support of vaccines, he was swamped by critics that said “I work for Bill Gates, I’m paid by pharma. I get a lot of references to Nuremberg and other things because I’m convincing people to get the vaccine”, he says. He said that he had not anticipated how the case for ivermectin would be infiltrated by anti-vaccine activists, or anticipated the degree of organisation, or the power of existing networks, for disseminating vaccine-scepticism.

In an email to Rebel Wisdom, Pierre Kory re-emphasised the “multi-modal” approach of the FLCCC to vaccines. Yet his affiliations don’t necessarily help in rendering a clear picture in the jabs’ favour.

Dr Paul Marik, a significant senior member of the FLCCC, has shared discredited claims that the vaccines have “killed 5,000 people” and ivermectin just “sixteen” based on WHO reporting. Dr Pierre Kory recently circulated a meme that suggested vaccines were killing patients in Israel, and which featured a screengrab from an anonymised internet meta-analysis of ivermectin that’s come under question.

More notably, Dr Pierre Kory has made appearances with Steve Kirsch, a computing entrepreneur and medical philanthropist who has shared several other widely-discredited claims relating to the vaccines. Kirsch, who has no medical training — yet was deemed by Kory to have “nailed” the WHO and the NIH on “the insanity that is modern evidence-based medicine” — has advanced suggestions that:

…This vaccine seeks out your daughter’s ovaries and instructs the cells in the ovaries to turn out a very toxic spike protein. It also goes to your child’s brain, heart, and other critical organs. This can cause deafness, blindness, inability to speak, myocarditis, pericarditis, and more at unacceptable rates. It may permanently damage your child’s reproductive system.”

Kirsch also suggested that the vaccine’s nanoparticle contents accumulated disproportionately in the ovaries, with a graph broadcast on Bret Weinstein’s Dark Horse podcast as evidence. Very soon after that episode aired, however, it emerged that the graph Steve Kirsch had provided was inaccurate. The vast majority of the nanoparticles stay at the injection site, and other organs were shown to have much higher concentrations. He did not make clear, either, that the data came from animal studies using vaccine concentrations thirty-five times greater than the human jabs.

“My admiration for Dr. Malone is ever deepening. He ‘gets it’”, Kory wrote of Dr Robert Malone and his support for ivermectin. Malone, a medical researcher and consultant, has made disputed claims to be the inventor of mRNA vaccines, and has advanced fears around vaccine spike proteins and Antibody Dependent Enhancement (ADE) that medical consensus has largely questioned.

In response to suggestions of division within the FLCCC, Kory emailed Rebel Wisdom to say that:

“All five FLCCC core doctors are in complete unity and strength (and mutual respect and love for each other) and are fighting on in this war and have all strongly agreed to MAINTAIN our ORGANIZATION’S long-held non-anti-vax stance on the role of vaccines in the pandemic (does not mean we individually have different viewpoints and knowledge base expertise on the safety, efficacy, and long-term wisdom of both these mrna/dna vector vaccines and the global mass-vaccination policy in a pandemic of a coronavirus.. umm its called sharing of scientific date/debating, and forming of opinions).

“No doctor in the FLCCC has even come close to leaving, none will be leaving, and if anything we are stronger today than ever. Did we have robust discussions? Yes! Part of why we are even stronger today.

“Dr. Osgood has no idea of our internal MD group discussions.. because he resigned before participating in one. If he only knew what was said in our discussions… he would actually be shocked compared to the cursory emails of some members starting opinions.. but he doesn’t.

“We heartily and happily wish him luck in all his future non-FLCCC endeavors.”

The conviction of Kory’s case notwithstanding, the quality of ivermectin’s evidence base is disputed. As discussed in Rebel Wisdom’s briefing document on the drug, some key meta-analyses — for instance, that by Bryant, Lawrie et al — were dealt a blow by the retraction of an Egyptian study revealed to be fraudulent. As another example, a trial by Carvallo et al suggested that the drug approached 100% effectiveness in COVID-19 prophylaxis — yet deep-dives by the epidemiologist Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz revealed substantial holes in its procedure. Meyerowitz-Katz recently shared fears in a blog post that as much as one-third of the ivermectin literature is potentially fraudulent. Medical authorities like the FDA, WHO and NIH have cautioned patients to avoid ivermectin outside of strict clinical trials.

Along these lines, the FLCCC’s initial mission was to petition for more research on ivermectin. For Osgood, though, “I think the whole movement behind the medicine has become more of an ideology — one that has changed to, like, ‘Why are we doing trials? We know for a fact that it works.’ But wait a second. The goal was supposed to be getting the trials done.”

A flurry of recent articles have reported rises in hospital admissions for improper use of veterinary ivermectin. Publications and the FDA have deemed ivermectin in kind a mere ‘horse de-wormer’. Voices from this ‘other side’ have affected Osgood, too, with many calling him “a snake oil salesman, ivermectin huckster pusher, pushing quackery” for his cautious and limited advocacy of ivermectin.

This has been troubling, he says, because ivermectin may well be an effective adjunct against the pandemic — especially in countries where vaccine availability and penetration are low. The media’s low coverage on the problem of vaccine inequity troubles him, and not least with fresh moves to roll out booster shots and further re-allocate towards the developed world.

“I also want to see what happens with the twenty, thirty incoming ivermectin clinical trials that have been going on for the last year, and whether or not we start to see some different results from the big three trials that all came out of South American countries”, he says. Each had “a lot of background, self directed ivermectin use, where I don’t know if we had a clean placebo group in those trials, to be honest with you”, he says.

Whether ivermectin works against the Delta variant, though, Osgood isn’t sure. Despite his ivermectin prophylaxis regimen, Pierre Kory recently contracted the disease — and the FLCCC has adjusted its protocols to call for a doubling of the ivermectin dosage: a shift that created further worry for Osgood, given the uncertainties and changes to the cost-benefit ratio brought by such a rise. Yet he isn’t immune to concerns about a background influence of Big Pharma in the pandemic interventions, which is something recognised by most doctors.

This is part of Rebel Wisdom’s investigation into the claims made around Ivermectin and the vaccines, most of which can be found on our YouTube and Medium channels.

https://rebelwisdom.co.uk/

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David Fuller

David Fuller

Journalist and documentary maker, for Channel 4, BBC, The Economist and others — see www.davidfuller.tv or https://twitter.com/fullydavid