In a letter to the editor, Tom Shuford responded to an earlier letter that I wrote in which I noted that “scientific studies have found that hydroxychloroquine does not prevent COVID-19 or show any other benefit for those exposed to COVID." Shuford wrote that he has “watched countless presentations by doctors who claim efficacy for hydroxychloroquine as an early, at-home treatment option for COVID-19,” some of whom are associated with a group called America’s Frontline Doctors. He also cites the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin as an early outpatient option.
A simple Google search quickly reveals that America’s Frontline Doctors is a rightwing political organization that has spread disinformation through the pandemic. A video produced by the group was removed by Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube after initially going viral in July of 2020. The video features Dr. Stella Immanuel who has made medical claims including sex with demons during dreams are a cause of health problems in the United States. The Daily Beast has reported that Immanuel believes that “the government is run in part not by humans but by 'reptilians’ and other aliens." The filming of the video was organized by a right-wing group called the Tea Party Patriots.
Regarding ivermectin, Politifact, a fact-checking website that has won the Pulitzer Prize, has rated the claim that the drug ivermectin is effective in treating COVID-19 as false. The Associated Press’s assessment of the claim is similarly that it is, false. There’s no evidence ivermectin has been proven a safe or effective treatment against COVID-19. Scientists have pointed to a lack of controlled trials demonstrating the drug’s usefulness.
Acceptance of claims that drugs such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin are effective in treating COVID-19 point to the importance of digital literacy during an age in which the spread of misinformation has become widespread. When evaluating a medical claim it is important to consider whether the claim has been made by a well-respected scientific medical group or by a political group that might have a partisan agenda. Political groups that spread disinformation can have scientific-sounding names. Google searches can quickly reveal whether a group that presents itself as scientific might have an ulterior motive.
Scams have been on the rise during the COVID pandemic. It is not always easy to know whom to trust. It is important now, more than ever, that digital literacy is taught at a young age so as to prevent the spread of disinformation and Americans being scammed online.