A week before the federal government announced it was halting approval of a new antibiotic used to treat C. difficile, the final FDA-approved antibiotic for the disease had generated much of the online chatter surrounding ivermectin’s potential use.
Addison Kennedy, a U.S. Senator from Connecticut, and HuffPost News reported on July 3 that Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., had been pressing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to make ivermectin part of the social media platform’s Safety Check feature.
The drug, developed by Middlesex Healthcare System in Boston, has been the subject of intense debate over its role in human health, stemming from how officials in the health sector and drug industry define success. Although the drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration since 1996, CDC officials and medical experts have long warned that it was behind-the-curve to account for the uptick in CRE infections.
Since this week’s announcement, the discussion around ivermectin and possible use as a treatment for multidrug-resistant superbugs has spread across the nation and abroad as mainstream news outlets have reported on it, including The Washington Post, which did not report that it was Sen. Kennedy’s petition that led to the FDA’s decision.
That development sent the anti-theft software company Mr. Number to YouTube. Two videos promoted ivermectin’s potential in fighting multidrug-resistant bacteria as well as increasing antibiotic use as a response to a growing public health emergency.
In response to an inquiry from D, a Maryland resident in his 40s, ivermectin was described as “that superbug ‘super defense’ that can break up the bacteria without a single antibiotic and kill it off completely.”
In an email to D, an ivermectin advocate said the drug is “essential” to surviving infection in “those with weakened immune systems.”
“One of the authors of the page simply thinks the unfortunate lack of antibiotics and the increasing rate of hard-to-treat infections across the U.S. need to be a bigger priority for people like all,” Pati Ritchard, an ivermectin advocate and guidebook author, wrote in an email to D.
Christopher Dolan, a Chicago resident in his 50s, was more definitive.
“It is the cure for C. difficile,” he wrote in an email.
Celebrities also appear to be involved in discussing ivermectin. When the topic of online cough syrup killed a famous chef in 2017, the actress Whoopi Goldberg tweeted that she always “eat[s] the baby’s waste,” a salve. Publicist Rob Shuter tweeted: “What better medicine than baby’s poop.”
However, the comments are hardly unanimous.
Vonnie has posted extensively about ivermectin on her Facebook page.
“I often ask friends to avoid it when I go to hospitals/pediatric units,” she wrote in one post.
Pati Ritchard said there has been an increase in patients contacting ivermectin to ask about using it to manage their conditions. But she also said that more friends are leaning toward the alternative.
“I am being more cautious than ever about the stuff I put on my skin, because it comes out weird,” she wrote in an email.