by Francisco Gil-White
Listen to the interview with Prof. Francisco Gil-White here: https://israelnewstalkradio.com/covid-cancel-culture-and-conspiracy-theories-the-tamar-yonah-show-audio-%f0%9f%8e%a7/
The risks of the new COVID vaccines that millions of Europeans, Americans, and Israelis are being inoculated with are perhaps reasonable to bear if fully effective treatment options do not exist. But many doctors claim they do exist.
In my previous article, I looked at the chlorine-dioxide controversy. I shared that thousands of medical doctors from all over Hispanic civilization (Spain & Latin America) are recommending chlorine-dioxide (ClO2) treatment for COVID-19 sufferers and as a prophylactic to protect those not yet infected. They’ve organized into something called the World Health and Life Coalition, or COMUSAV (for the Spanish version of its name: Coalición Mundial Salud y Vida). They have administered chlorine dioxide to many thousands of patients with—they claim—astonishingly positive results.
One country, Bolivia, has taken them seriously. In July, the Bolivian Senate voted to make chlorine dioxide available as prophylactic protection and treatment. Though the law was not finally approved until later, chlorine dioxide was made widely available from that summer onwards. Daily new COVID cases and deaths suddenly plummeted, from a peak of 2036 daily new cases on 19 July (almost repeated on 20 August) to counts below 100 on some days of October (source: worldometers).
The low numbers held until Bolivians, thinking the problem had been licked, stopped taking chlorine dioxide prophylactically even as they congregated for the December celebrations. Latin Americans are touchy-feely. Result: massive reinfection: the new-case count surged even above summer 2020 numbers. Yet, deaths remained low, at a fraction of summer deaths. Why? Because, claim COMUSAV leaders, COVID sufferers did continue to get chlorine-dioxide treatment.
After elections, the new Bolivian government—which took power on 8 November—accepted this interpretation and doubled down. Advised by COMUSAV, they got the military and the police to create health brigades and take chlorine dioxide to all the communities. Is it working? COMUSAV leaders told me back in early January that they were expecting a new steep fall in COVID cases during the month of February. On cue, daily new cases seem to have peaked on 28 January (2,866) falling fast to 1,244, which is the count for yesterday as I write on 14 February (source: worldometers).
So are the COMUSAV doctors right? I still don’t know.
What I do know is that the health ministries—including the World Health Organization (WHO)—and the Big Media have behaved rather strangely. They’ve told us that chlorine dioxide is toxic industrial bleach with no value as medicine. And the media add that chlorine dioxide is pushed by conspiracy theorists.
Yes, some conspiracy theorists recommend chlorine dioxide. But why always mention them and never the COMUSAV doctors? Aren’t the latter more relevant? And why tell us that chlorine dioxide is toxic industrial bleach? Sure, it is used as bleach, but only in very high concentrations (I checked). In low concentrations this substance is the water purifier of choice, used for decades around the world to supply millions of people with potable water in municipal systems. We drink it all the time. The health ministries and the Big Media very rarely mention that. Yet this is relevant, as I have argued, because the COMUSAV doctors are recommending a low-dosage treatment, with concentrations well below established toxicity levels.
Given that low-dosage chlorine dioxide is not toxic, we can remove all doubt on the question of antiviral efficacy—Does it help with COVID?—with randomized, double-blind clinical trials. But such clinical trials must be approved by what are called human-subjects committees, or ethics committees, which take guidance from the health bureaucrats, who can therefore stop the needed studies in their tracks. And they have. This behavior helps inspire the conspiracy theorists.
They argue as follows. The health ministries worry that chlorine dioxide perhaps does work in vivo against COVID—and that’s why they don’t allow clinical trials. Because if simple and cheap-to-produce chlorine dioxide comes out a winner, it endangers the profits that Big Pharma earns from expensive new drugs and vaccines, which profits the health ministries and Big Media work hard to protect (because Big Pharma has corrupted them).
The best policy with any conspiracy theory, I believe, is to take it seriously as a hypothesis and ask: What does it predict? At a minimum, this one predicts consistency. If two cheap and potentially effective substances, A and B, both endanger Big Pharma profits, then, to protect those profits, corrupted health ministries and media should be sabotaging both substances, not just one of them.
What about ivermectin?
Ivermectin is a widely used anti-parasitic drug.
Its story has a similar structure, for a great many doctors around the world have been saying, in unison, and for quite some time, that ivermectin is effective against COVID (this includes many COMUSAV doctors). In the US, the main push comes from the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC), a coalition of doctors organized and led by Doctor and Professor Paul E. Marik.
The FLCCC was created “to continuously review the rapidly emerging basic science, translational, and clinical data to develop a treatment protocol for COVID-19.” They wanted to see whether any existing drugs could be repurposed for this pandemic. As they reviewed the literature, they “discovered that ivermectin, an anti-parasitic medicine, has highly potent anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties against COVID-19.”
What has convinced these doctors is, on the one hand, a number of impressive clinical trials, and, on the other, “multiple, large ‘natural experiments,’ ” the results of which have been dramatic. The Hispanic world plays a major role, once again, in the latter. As the FLCCC doctors state, it was
“various city mayors and regional health ministries within South American countries [who] initiated ‘ivermectin distribution’ campaigns to their citizen populations in the hopes the drug would prove effective. The tight, reproducible, temporally associated decreases in case counts and case fatality rates in each of those regions compared to nearby regions without such campaigns, suggest that ivermectin may prove to be a global solution to the pandemic.”
One interesting difference here is that the common rhetorical attacks against chlorine dioxide cannot be used against ivermectin, for three reasons.
First, ivermectin does not have industrial uses that may be recruited to distract people from its medical applications.
Second, nobody can say it is not a recognized medicine. It is approved by the FDA and is on the World Health Organization’s model list of essential medicines. It has been used as an antiparasitic all over the world for decades, and is so amazing that its creators received, in 2015, the Nobel Prize.
And third, ivermectin is famously safe.
Also, ivermectin is cheap. Just as chlorine-dioxide solution (CDS) is not protected by patent, because Andreas Kalcker, who registered the relevant patents, has given them away, ivermectin is also not protected by patent, for it expired 10 years ago. Anybody can make it.
All told, then, ivermectin is a nice test case for the health ministries and the media. How have they behaved?
The New York Times on ivermectin
Take the New York Times, “the newspaper of record”—perhaps the world’s most influential publication.
On 8 December, the Republican Senator from Wisconsin, Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, convened a hearing on alternative approaches to the COVID crisis. The New York Times characterized this as a “promotion of unproven drugs and dubious claims” and generously poured out the sordid details of anything that seemed easy to attack, doing its best to link it all to Donald Trump (presumably because Trump is kryptonite to left-leaning NYT readers).
One segment was singled out as a special horror:
“In a move that led even most members of his own party on the committee to avoid the hearing, Mr. Johnson called witnesses who promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.”
Yet on this allegedly craziest bit—which featured the FLCCC’s Dr. Pierre Kory—all details were omitted. The NYT printed only this:
“The National Institutes of Health [NIH] guidelines recommend against using either drug to treat coronavirus patients except in clinical trials. … Ivermectin is used to treat parasites in humans as well as to prevent heartworms in dogs; research on its effectiveness in treating the coronavirus has been mixed.”
Dr. Pierre Kory’s presentation itself had nothing to do with hydroxychloroquine—it was about ivermectin. So why lump the two substances? Is it because Trump touted the first and the media famously ridiculed him for it? Did the Times mean to tar ivermectin with the public shame and Trump hatred that attaches to hydroxychloroquine? It’s a hypothesis.
One might expect, at least, that if ivermectin is so ridiculous, the New York Times would have some fun with Kory’s presentation. But no. The expected firecracker of derision sizzles without a pop. ‘Dr.’ New York Times says only, with oracular finality, and without stooping to discuss the evidence, that ivermectin has shown “mixed” results.
If accurate, notice, this judgment is hardly a radical embarrassment for ivermectin, for “mixed” implies that it defeats COVID in some studies. Is it unfair to guess, then, from the obvious bias in the reporting, that ivermectin effectiveness might be a lot better than “mixed”?
How good is ivermectin? The FLCCC weighs in.
Here is what the FLCCC’s Dr. Pierre Kory told the Senate committee:
“We have now come to the conclusion, after nine months, … that we have a solution to this [COVID-19] crisis. There is a drug that is proving to be of miraculous impact. And when I say ‘miracle,’ I do not use that term lightly. And I don’t want to be sensationalized when I say that. It’s a scientific recommendation based on mountains of data that has emerged in the last three months. … [Ivermectin] basically obliterates transmission of this virus. If you take it you will not get sick.” (emphases are all Kory’s)
Dr. Kory was emphatically not saying that results on ivermectin effectiveness were “mixed.” So this was an intellectual fight. The FLCCC doctors were complaining about the NIH’s recommendation against ivermectin, yet the Times, recall, cited (approvingly) only the NIH position and not Dr. Kory’s counter, which was this:
“When I am told … that we are touting things that are not FDA or NIH recommended! Let me be clear: the NIH, their recommendation on ivermectin—which is to not use it outside of controlled trials—is from August 27. We are now in December. … Mountains of data have [since] emerged from all, from many centers and countries around the world showing the miraculous effectiveness of ivermectin.”
Who should we believe: the health ministries or the FLCCC?
But perhaps Dr. Kory and the other FLCCC doctors are all lunatics? It doesn’t seem that way. As Dr. Kory stated:
“We are a group of some of the most highly published physicians in the world. We have near[ly] two-thousand peer-reviewed publications among us. … I was here in May … and I … recommended that it was critical that we use corticosteroids in this disease, when all of the national and international health-care organizations said we cannot use those. That turned out to be a life-saving recommendation.”
But the New York Times prefers to paint these physicians, indirectly, as a band of crazy extremists, and it prefers to side—by fiat—with the same stubbornly mistaken health ministries these talented doctors have faced down before to help patients with COVID.
About those health ministries, Dr. Kory said:
“I have to point out [that] I am severely troubled by the fact that the NIH, the FDA, and the CDC—I do not know of any task force that was assigned or compiled [by them] to review repurposed drugs in an attempt to treat this disease [COVID-19]. Everything has been about novel and/or expensive pharmaceutically engineered drugs. Things like Tocilizumab and remdesivir and monoclonal antibodies and vaccines. … I will tell you that my group, and our organization, I will say that we have filled that void.” (original emphasis)
This needs little translation. Dr. Kory was complaining that the entire policy, in the middle of a pandemic, has been to benefit not the people getting sick, but the Big Pharma companies that produce “novel and/or expensive … drugs … and vaccines.”
But how about a little science? That’s all Dr. Kory and the FLCCC were pleading for: “All I ask is for the NIH to review our data that we have compiled.”
What about that data?
Consider just one example that Dr. Kory shared in his presentation. In a prophylaxis (prevention) study whose results Dr. Hector Eduardo Carvallo presented to health authorities in his native Argentina way back in July 2020, an experimental group of 800 health workers were given ivermectin. Not one of the 800 got COVID whereas a full 58% of the 400 health workers in the control group, who did not receive ivermectin, did get COVID.
In September 2020, the Argentinian newspaper El Tribuno interviewed Carvallo, who shared that, in another study, they had found that seriously ill COVID patients are 7 times less likely to die if they are given ivermectin.
In the same month of September, two leading researchers, David Jans and Kylie Wagstaff, reported: “There are currently more than 50 trials worldwide testing the clinical benefit of ivermectin to treat or prevent SARS-CoV-2,” the virus that causes COVID-19. In October, the same researchers reported on the results of many of those clinical studies. They were highly consistent with Carvallo’s findings. One of them, for example, found that “two doses of ivermectin 72 h apart” protected effectively over 90% of relatives of COVID patients, whereas in the control group, which didn’t get ivermectin, well over half of them got COVID, “underlining ivermectin’s potential as a prophylactic.”
These and many other studies constitute the wealth of evidence that Dr. Kory was referring to—and which many Australian doctors are also pushing—when he mentioned that “mountains of data” had lately emerged favoring the hypothesis that ivermectin stops COVID in its tracks.
But this is a controversy. So I took a look at how the reluctant health ministries argue the other side. As one example, consider the report by the South African Department of Health, from 21 December (which is after Dr. Kory’s dramatic 8 December presentation in the US Senate). The authors did not consider any epidemiological data, as if only randomized, control trials (RCTs) were worth considering. True, RCTs are the scientific gold standard, but science is not limited to them.
In any case, this report’s review of RCTs strikes me as extremely poor. It looked only at four studies (that’s it), each apparently handpicked for their obvious, easy-to-criticize shortcomings. Even so, one of the four did clearly show a positive result for ivermectin, which the report dismisses on the grounds that the study’s authors determined the effective dosage after collecting their results rather than predict it in advance (this is nonsense, and does not affect the fact that the study found an effect at high dosages). The report, further, does not consider evidence on the potential prophylactic benefits of ivermectin. Carvallo is not even mentioned. Is this an honest look at the “mountains of data” that now exist on this drug?
At least the NIH, after dragging its feet for months, did review the “mountains of data.” This was only thanks to ‘crazy’ Ron Johnson’s hearing (which so infuriated the other senators and the New York Times). At that hearing, Dr. Kory made this impassioned statement:
“We have a hundred thousand patients in the hospital right now, dying. I am a lung specialist. I am an ICU specialist. I have cared for more dying COVID patients than anyone can imagine. They are dying because they can’t breathe. They can’t breathe. They’re on high-flow oxygen-delivery devices, they’re on non-invasive ventilators and/or sedated and paralyzed and attached to mechanical ventilators that breathe for them. And I watch them every day. They die. By the time they get to me in the ICU, they are already dying, they are almost impossible to recover. Early treatment is key. We need to offload the hospitals. We are tired. I can’t keep doing this. If you look at my manuscript, and if I have to go to work next week, any further deaths are going to be needless deaths.” (my emphasis)
This influential—and extremely angry—doctor was basically saying: Any further deaths are going to be on you, the bureaucrats and politicians. Well… That got the job done, apparently. The NIH looked at Kory et al’s manuscript, which will appear soon in Frontiers in Pharmacology, and which contains an expert review of the ivermectin evidence that he and other FLCCC doctors prepared for publication.
And guess what? In mid-January, one week after taking a look at that, the NIH changed its recommendation on ivermectin from ‘against’ to ‘neither for nor against.’ They budged as little as possible, as if any move to favor ivermectin were painful to them, but even so, the NIH’s newly found neutrality, as FLCC doctors point out, makes ivermectin a treatment option. That’s very important.
I guess the above outcome produced some embarrassment in South Africa. Before the month was over, Bloomberg was reporting that “South Africa Allows Use of Parasite Drug [Ivermectin] in Covid Patients” on “compassionate grounds”—that is, for people who are dying and without hope of recovery. Score another for the FLCCC.
The World Health Organization also felt some embarrassment, I think. Just today, the WHO announced that it will (at last…) publish guidelines for ivermectin treatment. It is only for those recently infected with COVID, however. On prophylaxis, nothing. And they’re not in a hurry: they’ll take a leisurely 4—perhaps 6—weeks (it’s not as if there’s a pandemic, after all, or people dying). But it’s something. Score another for the FLCCC.
The FLCCC doctors are not the only ones mystified by the behavior of bureaucrats on ivermectin. When El Tribuno asked Carvallo why the health ministries were dragging their feet on making an official recommendation for ivermectin, he replied:
“I leave that to you as a journalist. To us, there are two things that worry us, stemming from the slowness of government entities to make the [ivermectin] protocols official. On 4 July, when we brought the results [of the ivermectin studies] to the pertinent authorities, there were 1,542 deaths [in Argentina]. Today there are 26 thousand. This takes away our sleep… By not making this official, not only do we remove from people the possibility to do something that has been proven effective, but we also run the risk of self-medication.”
Though ivermectin is not technically a vaccine, “it works like one,” Dr. Carvallo points out. The implication is that, if health bureaucrats in Argentina had bestirred themselves in July, they could have saved over 24 thousand lives (more now). Ivermectin still has not been approved by ANMAT, Argentina’s equivalent of the FDA, though it seems people in Argentina—and especially the health workers—are all rushing to take it anyway.
But perhaps it would be wrong to state that health bureaucrats have taken no interest in ivermectin. It was in August—immediately after Carvallo reported his results—that the NIH took the trouble to issue its recommendation against using ivermectin to treat COVID. Perhaps health bureaucrats do take a (negative) interest in repurposed drugs…?
What does this have to do with vaccines?
With timely action by the NIH, FDA, CDC, and other health ministries around the world to repurpose cheap and available drugs generally, and to promote the ivermectin protocol in particular, perhaps millions of Europeans, Americans, and Israelis, among others, would not have been inoculated. Were the health ministries, then, acting to protect Big Pharma’s vaccine profits? That’s what the conspiracy theorists say.
Are they right? I don’t know.
But consider this. Ivermectin’s side effects are well understood. They are rare, and, when they occur, mild. Moreover, they are typically a consequence of the drug acting quickly on the pathogens that cause river blindness (onchocerciasis) or intestinal worms (strongyloidiasis). Taken as a prophylactic by people who are afflicted with neither condition, therefore, it is even safer. So safe that it is often compared to aspirin. Why, then, are most governments so reluctant to try it?
It is at least interesting—is it not?—that health ministries should treat ivermectin officially with toxic gloves, as if it were more dangerous than the new Big Pharma vaccines whose development the same health ministries rushed, though they employ—in the cases of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna—an entirely new mRNA technology whose dangers are poorly understood.
Unsurprisingly, lots of people don’t want the Big Pharma COVID vaccines, and many health workers, though most at risk for getting COVID, are refusing them (in the US, 1 out of every 3). Are they too paranoid? I don’t know. But the vaccines have caused some strong adverse reactions and perhaps deaths (for example, in Norway, and in the US).
Are the vaccines at least effective against COVID? Again, I don’t know. Maybe they are. We’ll have to see. But already they are telling us that, since the virus mutates, in the best of cases they won’t be effective for very long. According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is eagerly vaccinating his entire country, “I expect this to be exactly like the flu—probably more so than the flu, which requires vaccination every year.” Why? Because this coronavirus, like the flu, mutates a lot, and you need new vaccines all the time to keep up with that. According to the CDC, vaccine effectiveness for the seasonal flu ranges between 19% (2014) and 60% (2010).
That’s great news for Big Pharma, not so much for us. Especially when you recall that Carvallo reported an 800-out-of-800 home run protecting people with ivermectin.
It really seems like, prudently and ethically, not to mention economically, health bureaucrats really should have invested in cheap, repurposed drugs—if only as a hedge.
But was this really all for Big Pharma’s sake?
Perhaps we will find, in the end, that ivermectin does not protect us from COVID. I don’t know. But, regardless, a circumstantial case can be made that health bureaucrats have been accommodating the interests of Big Pharma:
- health bureaucrats never established a task force to study the repurposing of cheap, existing drugs (which drugs, if effective against COVID, represent a giant opportunity cost for Big Pharma, and the loss of its entire vaccine investment);
- when doctors investigate drug repurposing on their own, the health ministries pretend it’s not happening and drag their feet; then,
- they forbid clinical trials on cheap chlorine dioxide and pretend it is a toxic bleach, when it is a common water purifier safe to drink in low dosages; and
- they issue absurd recommendations against a cheap, widely used, and very safe drug, ivermectin, even as that drug is already showing promise against COVID; by contrast,
- with almost no evidence, the health ministries do give their endorsement to repurpose prohibitively expensive Big Pharma drugs—for example, remdesivir, which had already failed to work against Ebola, and which also failed to work against COVID-19 (though its sale for COVID treatment did help Big Pharma recoup some of the remdesivir investment); and moreover
- the health ministries gave emergency authorization, and lots of money, for the rushed development of expensive Big Pharma vaccines that use a novel mRNA technology with unknown risks; and finally
- they grant immunity from liability to the Big Pharma companies for any people their new COVID vaccines maim or kill (see here and here).
The Big Media, as we have seen, cooperate with all this, repeating everything the health ministries say on chlorine dioxide and ivermectin, as if bureaucrats could never be corrupt or in error and a journalist’s job was simply to act as a government spokesperson.
But this is not all.
In the text that Dr. Pierre Kory submitted to the US Senate, he wrote that
“Another barrier [to repurposing] has been the censorship of all of our attempts at disseminating critical scientific information on Facebook and other social media with our pages repeatedly being blocked.”
Well, it didn’t stop there. After Dr. Kory testified at Senator Ron Johnson’s 8 December hearing, and after the video of that hearing quickly logged more than 8 million views, YouTube decided, in late January, to take it down, from both Johnson’s and FOX NEWS’s channels. YouTube explained it like this:
“We enforce our Community Guidelines consistently, regardless of speaker and without regard to political viewpoints. In accordance with our COVID-19 misinformation policy, we removed the two videos in question.”
It is false, however, that YouTube enforces its Community Guidelines—whatever they are—consistently, because the PBS channel on YouTube, which posted the same video of the same hearing, was not censored.
What is the difference? Is it that most people will know to go to FOX NEWS, which has the highest ratings, or else to Senator Johnson’s own channel? As of this writing, the PBS version has logged only around 57,000 views. Or is it because both censored sources are on the political right, and YouTube is on the left? Well, perhaps it’s both.
You get censored from YouTube, it seems, if you are on the right and lots of people are watching. So YouTube, contrary to what it states, appears to be doing politics.
It is interesting to consider what it means for democracy when social media companies—I guess we should start calling them ‘Dr. Facebook’ and ‘Dr. YouTube’—decide which side in a medical scientific dispute is producing censorable “misinformation.” (And free-speech issues aside, is there really an argument for barring US citizens from hearing testimony presented to their own selves via their constitutional, representative institution?) This is cancel culture gone mad.
In any case, let us note that this move once again benefits Big Pharma. Hm. Perhaps the conspiracy theorists have a point.
But does the Big Pharma conspiracy theory really make sense? I will explore this question in my next article.