(CNN)Rand Paul is, by training, a doctor of ophthalmology. Which has to do with eyes. Not infectious disease.
That fact hasn't stopped Paul from repeatedly challenging Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in congressional hearings. Or from openly questioning the efficacy of mask-wearing. Or raising questions about the Covid-19 vaccine.
Paul's latest? He's insisting that ivermectin, a drug used in rare instances in humans to treat maladies including intestinal parasites and head lice, isn't being studied as a possible treatment for coronavirus patients because of politics.
"The hatred for Trump deranged these people so much, that they're unwilling to objectively study it," Paul told a group in northern Kentucky late last week. "So someone like me that's in the middle on it, I can't tell you because they will not study ivermectin. They will not study hydroxychloroquine without the taint of their hatred for Donald Trump."
To be clear: Paul IS NOT in the "middle" when it comes to the use of ivermectin. He is WAY on the conspiracy theory end of the spectrum.
Start here: Ivermectin has drawn national headlines of late because some elected officials (like Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin), as well as some anchors on Fox News, have pushed it as a possible way to lessen the effects and severity of Covid-19.
That misinformation has led to a surge in people trying to get their hands on the drug. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent a health advisory Thursday warning doctors and the public about the "rapid increase" in prescriptions for the anti-parasitic drug.
The run on ivermectin has been so frantic that some people are resorting to taking the animal form of the medicine, which is prescribed to cows and horses who have worms. In Mississippi, 70% of the recent calls to the state's poison control center were about ingestion of ivermectin formulations meant for animals and purchased at livestock supply centers. Calls to Alabama's poison control center regarding ivermectin have more than doubled of late.
Things got so bad that the US Food and Drug Administration tweeted about ivermectin usage: "You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y'all. Stop it." In the article linked to in the tweet, the FDA notes that "ivermectin is not an anti-viral (a drug for treating viruses)" and that you should "never use medications intended for animals on yourself. Ivermectin preparations for animals are very different from those approved for humans."
(Sidebar: That feels like the sort of thing the FDA shouldn't have to say. But ...)
Why did supporters become convinced that, contra science, ivermectin is an effective treatment for Covid-19? A study that has now been debunked. As Nature wrote recently:
"Throughout the pandemic, the anti-parasite drug ivermectin has attracted much attention, particularly in Latin America, as a potential way to treat COVID-19. But scientists say that recent, shocking revelations of widespread flaws in the data of a preprint study reporting that the medication greatly reduces COVID-19 deaths dampens ivermectin's promise -- and highlights the challenges of investigating drug efficacy during a pandemic...
"...The paper summarized the results of a clinical trial seeming to show that ivermectin can reduce COVID-19 death rates by more than 90% — among the largest studies of the drug's ability to treat COVID-19 to date. But on 14 July, after internet sleuths raised concerns about plagiarism and data manipulation, the preprint server Research Square withdrew the paper because of 'ethical concerns'."
Then there's this: A recent review of 14 studies involving ivermectin produced zero evidence that the drug is an effective means of treating Covid-19. As the study's authors wrote:
"Based on the current very low‐ to low‐certainty evidence, we are uncertain about the efficacy and safety of ivermectin used to treat or prevent COVID‐19. The completed studies are small and few are considered high quality. Several studies are underway that may produce clearer answers in review updates. Overall, the reliable evidence available does not support the use of ivermectin for treatment or prevention of COVID‐19 outside of well‐designed randomized trials."
So there were at least 14 studies into the efficacy of ivermectin to treat the coronavirus. Which doesn't seem like, as Paul has contended, no one is willing to do studies on the drug because they hate Donald Trump.
Paul's problem isn't that ivermectin is being ignored as a potential treatment for Covid-19 patients. It's that the data, which makes clear there is no benefit (at least to date) of using the drug, doesn't comport with what his base wants to believe. Which is his problem, not ours.