Note that views expressed in this opinion article are the writer’s personal views and not necessarily those of BiRD or of Trial Site News.
By Sonia Elijah
From its humble beginnings, derived from an isolated bacterial culture from Japanese soil 46 years ago, to a Nobel prize-winning and anti-parasitic drug, included in the World Health Organisation’s essential list of medicines–ivermectin is one of modern science’s major success stories.
However, from the onset of the pandemic, this cheap generic drug, which for decades has safely cured people of river blindness in 33 countries, with more than 3.7 billion doses administered, has rapidly become public enemy #1 for the fact-checkers when the drug was repurposed as an early treatment and prophylaxis (preventative) for Covid-19.
To date, there have been 31 RCTs (Randomized Controlled Trials), 64 controlled studies, and 7 meta-analyses of the RCTs done on ivermectin. All of them found that ivermectin significantly reduced mortality and hospitalization rates as well as the risk of contracting Covid-19. In Mexico City, over 50,000 patients were treated early with ivermectin, resulting in up to a 75% reduction in hospitalization rates, compared to over 70,000 who were not treated. In Peru, a mass distribution program of ivermectin, led to a 74% drop in excess deaths within a month. Similar success stories were found in Las Pampas and La Misiones regions in Argentina.
In Uttar Pradesh, India, with a population of 241 million as of 10 September 2021, unbelievably only 11 cases and no deaths were recorded. The WHO reported on Uttar Pradesh’s success, attributing it to the aggressive test and treat program, which included the distribution of medicine kits. However, their report failed to include the list of the kits’ contents. Only one article from the mainstream media, an MSN report, revealed that the ‘Uttar Pradesh government has claimed that it was the first state to have introduced a large-scale “prophylactic and therapeutic” use of ivermectin and added that the drug helped the state to maintain a lower fatality and positivity rate as compared to other states.’
A similar success story was experienced in Indonesia after the government authorized the use of ivermectin for Covid-19 patients in July when the Delta variant was ripping through the country.
The number of cases has significantly plummeted since July.
In response to the real-world proven track record of ivermectin as an effective Covid treatment, governmental regulatory bodies, mainstream media, and disinformation agents/fact-checkers have deplored its use and embarked on what can be described as a smear campaign. With headlines running in the Washington Post such as “How those ivermectin conspiracy theories convinced people to buy horse dewormer.”
Even the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently tweeted this post below.
A formulation of ivermectin has long been used in veterinary medicine but for the FDA to be so reductive and defamatory in tone by simply referring to it as a horse dewormer, is misinformation. Especially when ivermectin is approved by the FDA to treat humans with intestinal diseases with a proven forty-year safety record.
The apparent censorship and smear campaign against ivermectin by Big Tech, Big Media, and Big Pharma has arisen against the backdrop of the Trusted News Initiative, led by the BBC. Its members include Reuters, CBC, Associated Press, Financial Times, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, Google/YouTube. It was set up in 2019 with the sole purpose to censor what powerful interest groups consider to be ‘misinformation.’
It’s worth noting, James C. Smith, a Pfizer board member was the former CEO and chairman of Thompson Reuters Corporation until February 2020. In addition, Scott Gottlieb, another Pfizer board member, served as 23rd Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) until 2019.
This ‘revolving door’ of pharmaceutical execs either coming from or going to work for governmental regulatory bodies, such as the FDA, has given impetus to the argument these agencies have been ‘captured.’
Big Pharma is the colloquial term used to define the top ten pharmaceutical companies in terms of revenue. Major players include Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck. Pfizer has seen a surge in revenues after partnering with BioNTech and winning approval of their Covid vaccine. (Source: investors.pfizer.com)
An example of the merging of Big Tech and Big Pharma can be seen in the purchase of two pharmaceutical companies by Alphabet (the parent company of Google which owns YouTube). Calico, which discovers treatments to overcome aging, and Verily Life Sciences, which partnered with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in 2016 to form a new drug company, Galvani Bioelectronics, chaired by GSK’s former chairman of its global vaccine business. It’s interesting to note that Emma Walmsley the CEO of GSK is also on the board of Microsoft, founded by Bill Gates.
The controversy surrounding ivermectin reached a fever pitch in July when the Elgazzar et al RCTs pre-print (led by Dr Ahmed Elgazzar from Benha University in Egypt) was retracted from Research Square on 14 July. It was not retracted by the author but by the server, Research Gate, based solely on the complaints of alleged ‘fraudulent data,’ ‘data manipulation,’ and ‘plagiarism’ by Jack Lawrence, currently studying for his biomedical sciences masters at St George’s, University of London.
Research Square did not give the authors of the Elgazzar study prior notice of the retraction or the right of reply. The retraction, based on ‘ethical concerns’, came a day after Lawrence claimed he alerted them to the fraud. In the Body of Evidence podcast interview, Lawrence states he was given the Elgazzar study to critique by his professor as part of his master’s course. Then, he later states he was studying it, “looking for fraud” (at 13:28 in the timeline). He vividly described his discoveries of “patchwork plagiarism” akin to “a James Bond movie scene.”
The Canadian interviewers, Dr Christopher Labos and Jonathan Jarry, ‘debunkers of pseudoscience’ that ‘tell you what’s solid, what’s iffy, and what’s crapola’, did not attempt to hide their openly biased opinion. Their ill-humored remark that the BIRD group (British Ivermectin Recommendation Development Group) should be renamed was emphasized with a neighing horse sound effect.
“There is a whole ivermectin hype…dominated by a mix of right-wing figures, anti-vaxxers and outright conspiracy theorists” Jack Lawrence stated in the 15 July, Guardian article.
This statement can be viewed as disparaging given its use of derogatory stereotyping against those who support the scientific evidence in favor of ivermectin’s prophylactic and therapeutic effectiveness.
The article was swiftly published only 24 hours after the Elgazzar paper was retracted by Research Square. Melissa Davey, the medical editor of the Guardian, Australia, omitted important information regarding Lawrence. She failed to include details that this master’s student also happens to be a journalist/blogger and founder of the website and discussion forum called, GRFTR, grifters exposed, ‘dedicated to countering online disinformation, misleading stories, and exposing online grifters of all types via debunkings, criticism, analysis, and review.’
It’s worth noting that the Guardian is a recipient of a generous grant by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) through their Global Development Fund. The same foundation has given over $17 million in grants to Pfizer, which it has shares in, as well as other pharmaceutical companies, such as BioNTech, Pfizer’s manufacturing partner of its Covid vaccine. The BMGF also heavily finances GAVI, the vaccine alliance, which has posted articles actively advising against the use of ivermectin on its website.
According to the Guardian article, Lawrence ‘found the introduction section of the paper appeared to have been almost entirely plagiarised.’ London-based Lawrence then contacted the chronic disease epidemiologist from the University of Wollongong in Australia, Gideon, currently studying for his PhD and Nick Brown, a data analyst affiliated with Linnaeus University in Sweden, to help him review the report. It’s worth noting the University of Wollongong is the recipient of a substantial grant from the BMGF.
What’s unusual is that Lawrence claims to have accessed the raw data by attempting to guess the passcode, which he claims ended up being “1 2 3 4.”
Whether or not the raw data was accessed and done so by guessing at the password, is yet to be determined. The fact that Lawrence admits to guessing at the password to get into a password protected database could be interpreted as hacking, given the definition is the following ‘the gaining of unauthorized access to data in a system or computer.’ This is concerning, since hacking is as illegal activity under UK law, according to the Computer Misuse Act 1990.
Dr. Ahmed Elgazzar alarmingly stated in an email to a chief investigator of a large meta-analysis on ivermectin, “the data mentioned in the Guardian article is not the actual data of my raw materials.” Furthermore, in an email to Research Square, he accused Lawrence of “taking strange raw material that had been fabricated and added to another website and linked to my research, but after reviewing it I confirmed beyond any doubt that it does not belong to me at all.”
When I asked Lawrence about how he was able to access the raw data file, his response was “the data file has been removed from the file transfer website, I’m afraid. I do not know the reasons for this. The ways these authors shared the data is not normal scientific practice, to say the least. You can find an archived copy of the data here.”
Unusually, this alleged raw data is kept on Nick Brown’s blog casting a shadow over its authenticity, particularly as Elgazzar claims it did not originate from his study.
Furthermore, in Elgazzar’s email he shared the fact that he had contacted Melissa Davey of the Guardian, to refute the claims made by Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz that “the data was just totally faked.” He has strongly asserted defamation and intimated legal action.
In contrast, Davey writes ‘Lawrence and the Guardian sent Elgazzar a comprehensive list of questions about the data but did not receive a reply. The university’s press office also did not respond.’
Since Davey’s article was published exactly one day after the study was retracted by Research Square, perhaps Elgazzar was not able to respond to her within the 24-hour time frame. However, no update to the article has included Elgazzar’s response to date.
In the Body of Evidence podcast, Lawrence reveals that he had been evaluating the Elgazzar paper “for months” and events unfolded very quickly within a 2-week period which led him to alert Research Square in July of the alleged fraud and Melissa Davey of the Guardian. These seemingly coordinated events followed on the heels of the influential Bryant et al meta-analysis systematic review of 24 RCTs (including the Elgazzar RCT) which was published just before in the American Journal of Therapeutics concluding that ‘Moderate-certainty evidence finds that large reductions in COVID-19 deaths are possible using ivermectin.’
Turning to Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz (the Australian PhD student quoted in the Guardian article), it’s worth highlighting the articles written by Meyerowitz- Katz prior to the pandemic, all share something in common- the downplaying of any harms caused by chemicals. It could be said that Meyerowitz-Katz, by default, is promoting the interests of the chemical lobby. One of his articles reads, “Alarmist fearmongering over the scary chemicals in your food is all the rage, the reality is far more humdrum”. He then writes how the organic food movement is just a “health fad” and downplays any negative health effects attributed to chemical food additives as simply, “sensationalist science”. Another runs with the headline“Artificial sweeteners aren’t destroying your children’s health.”
Meyerowitz-Katz was also quoted in a Genetic Literacy Project article, known to be a pro chemical lobby publication, challenging the meta-analysis that the weedkiller glyphosate, originally developed by Monsanto in the 1970s and often paired with GM crops, increases cancer risk.
The self-proclaimed fraud detectives, Lawrence, Meyerowitz-Katz and Brown teamed up again but this time alongside Kyle Sheldrick and James Heathers, to write a letter to the editor published in Nature on 22 September. Heathers and Brown have worked together in the past, exposing ‘shoddy and questionable research.’
They explained that ‘several other studies that claim a clinical benefit for ivermectin are similarly fraught and contain impossible numbers in their results.’ Inadvertently, they reveal their own biases in their statement by only discrediting the studies that ‘claim a clinical benefit’ without providing any evidence for it. They remain silent on the ones which are widely considered to be flawed studies, like Roman et al, where 40 physicians signed an open letter, detailing the errors and requested retraction of the study.
When I asked Lawrence why he and his colleagues had not looked for fraud in the Roman et al study, he said “We are reviewing every RCT for ivermectin with over 100 patients for fraud, but not every systematic review which is why we have not focused on Roman et al.”
This can be interpreted as an admission of their selective bias in determining which studies they choose to find flaws in. Perhaps, it was Roman et al conclusion of ivermectin not being a viable option to treat Covid-19, which gave it a free pass.
When I asked him about the Lopez-Medina study, his response was “Lopez-Medina was very forthcoming with his data, and we have looked into it.” His response did not address whether they found flaws in that study. One can be forgiven for presuming that it was given a pass like Roman et al, based on its ‘findings that it did not support the use of ivermectin.’
Even though ‘the fraud detectives’ seemingly found no problems with the Lopez-Medina study, more than 100 physicians did. They signed an open letter concluding that the Lopez-Medina study was fatally flawed.
It’s odd that this group specializing in investigating ivermectin studies for fraud and ‘dodgy science’ failed to find the evident flaws in these previously mentioned studies when so many others did.
The TOGETHER Clinical Trials (one of the largest randomized clinical trials in the world evaluating the effectiveness of repurposed drugs, including ivermectin) is another study with flaws and conflicts of interest. The trial is associated with MMS Holdings. This is the same company that helps pharmaceutical companies get approval by designing the scientific studies that help them get approved. As it happens, one of their clients is Pfizer. It’s not surprising that their results showed no benefit for ivermectin in the treatment for Covid-19.
The co-lead investigator of the TOGETHER trial is Dr Edward Mills, an associate professor in the Department of Health and Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact at McMaster University in Canada. He’s also a clinical trial advisor at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The fraud detectives are of the collective opinion that if the Elgazzar study is removed from the meta-analyses – ‘the revision will show no mortality benefit for ivermectin.’ In contrast, scientists with decades of experience disagree, such as Dr Tess Lawrie M.D., Ph.D., Andrew Bryant, and Dr Edmund Fordham. They wrote a letter to the editor of the American Journal of Therapeutics and explained when the Bryant et al. study was re-analyzed to exclude the Elgazzar study, the results showed a ‘49% reduction in mortality in favor of ivermectin.’
Dr Pierre Kory, MD, who won the British Medical Association‘s 2015 President’s Choice award, along with Dr Paul Marik MD, also wrote a letter to the editor of the American Journal of Therapeutics stating ‘we decided to redo the original meta-analyses excluding this study [Elgazzar et al]. The summary point estimates were largely unaffected when the study by Elgazzar et al was removed.’
Another mainstream media report targeting ivermectin is the October 7, BBC article, written by Rachel Schraer and Jack Goodman. It reads: ‘The scientists in the group – Dr Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, Dr James Heathers, Dr Nick Brown, and Dr Sheldrick – each have a track record of exposing dodgy science.’
Meyerowitz-Katz is a PhD student and not eligible for the ‘Dr’ title. Kyle Sheldrick, is a medical doctor, James Heathers and Nick Brown have PhDs. It’s interesting to note that Sheldrick received almost $1 million in grant money from the Australian government for his bio-tech company, Merunova.
Since my report was published on TSN, the BBC article has been revised and the ‘Dr’ title for Meyerowitz-Katz has now been removed.
‘The group of independent scientists examined virtually every randomized controlled trial (RCT) on ivermectin and Covid.’ This is another false statement. As stated earlier, in Lawrence’s response to my question, he admitted that they did not examine every RCT.
The article incorporates commonly used derogatory phrases such as ‘pushing anti-vaccine sentiments,’ ‘hype around ivermectin,’ and ‘conspiracy theories of ivermectin cover-ups’ in referring to those who support the use of ivermectin as a Covid-19 treatment. The referenced scientists who are stated as being ‘pro-ivermectin’ are not described in favorable terms. Dr Pierre Kory is considered by the BBC to have ‘an exaggerated influence’ and Dr Tess Lawrie is accused of making ‘unsubstantiated claims’ regarding the Covid vaccines’ adverse events. Perhaps the BBC is unaware that Covid vaccine adverse events (including deaths) have been recorded on databases such as VAERS and the UK’s Yellow Card scheme, since their rollout.
‘The BBC can reveal that more than a third of 26 major trials of the drug for use on Covid have serious errors or signs of potential fraud.’ This statement not only reveals the BBC’s bias but is overt disinformation. The BBC has not supplied any independently verified evidence to back up its claim. The defamatory accusation that a third of all scientists involved in the 26 major trials are implicated in fraud and erroneous trials, is yet another example of them publishing an unsubstantiated ‘fact’ and pushing “fake news.”
Both the BBC and the Guardian are guilty of publishing articles with the presumption that the Elgazzar study is fraudulent, purely based on the claims of this group and the prima facie retraction of the study. In truth, the Elgazzar study is under current investigation and no verdict has yet been announced. In fact, they have declared someone guilty before the evidence has been independently examined and judgment made–this is shocking. What happened to innocent until proven guilty?
Similar to the Guardian, the BBC has received generous grants from the BMGF via its Global Development Fund. However, it has received significantly more than the Guardian with grants dating back as early as 2006.
When reviewing this very polarized debate over the use of ivermectin as a treatment for Covid-19, the motive has an essential role to play. The question that needs to be asked is what do these scientists have to gain by promoting the use of ivermectin as a treatment?
They are not promoting the use of a patented expensive drug but advocating the use of a cheap generic one. They are putting their well-established careers on the line. They are sticking their heads above the parapet and by doing so exposing themselves to slander or worse. Yet, they continue to do so because they know lives are worth saving.
And why is ivermectin being so negatively targeted by Big Tech and Big Media? One could argue conflict of interest plays a major role, given how intertwined they are with Big Pharma and the far-reaching grasp of the BMGF. A cheap and effective early treatment for Covid-19, like ivermectin, can be seen as a significant threat to the financial interests of those involved with Covid vaccines and expensive anti-viral drugs.
One fact is for certain, the disinformation war surrounding ivermectin shows no signs of abating.