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FactCheck: Social media post on use of ivermectin for refugees lacks context

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of ivermectin as a treatment for arriving refugees to treat parasitic infections. But a social media post by Dr. Simone Gold, a proponent of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19, references the CDC guidance without accurately explaining the reason why refugees are given the drug.

Ivermectin, an antiparasitic medication for humans and animals, has been a source of controversy in recent months as unfounded claims that the drug is an effective treatment for COVID-19 have gained traction online.

The CDC has warned against using ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19.

Despite the increasing circulation of these claims, ivermectin is not an authorized treatment for COVID-19. Studies of the drug's efficacy and safety are ongoing. But, as of now, its use in treating COVID-19 outside of clinical trials is not recommended by the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration or the World Health Organization.

(For more, see SciCheck's "Ongoing Clinical Trials Will Decide Whether (or Not) Ivermectin Is Safe, Effective for COVID-19.")

A recent Facebook post highlighted a tweet by Dr. Simone Gold, who has advocated the use of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19, saying that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "officially recommends administering ivermectin as presumptive therapy (giving medication without a diagnosis) to refugees."

Gold continues: "The FDA approved it for human use in February 1996. The media's claim that ivermectin is only a de-wormer for animals is a flat-out lie."

But by failing to indicate why ivermectin is a recommended treatment for refugees, Gold may leave the false impression that the drug is being used to treat COVID-19.

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In fact, some of the comments on the post indicate that readers did get that false impression. For instance, one person commented: "Why does the CDC care more about refugees than the American people?"

The CDC actually recommends ivermectin as a presumptive treatment for incoming refugees to fight parasitic infections, not COVID-19. The use of ivermectin is aimed at treating a disease called strongyloidiasis, caused by a common parasite, a roundworm, in refugees from Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and parts of Africa.

Ivermectin is approved for human use to treat some conditions caused by parasites, such as strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis, which is otherwise known as "river blindness."

Ivermectin is not recommended by the CDC as a treatment for COVID-19. In fact, the CDC issued a health advisory on Aug. 26 warning against misusing ivermectin to either prevent or treat COVID-19.

"Adverse effects associated with ivermectin misuse and overdose are increasing, as shown by a rise in calls to poison control centers reporting overdoses and more people experiencing adverse effects," the CDC advisory said.

Gold, who founded the organization America's Frontline Doctors, has previously made misleading claims about COVID-19 treatments. As we've reported, Gold has touted hydroxychloroquine as a "cure" for COVID-19 despite the fact that randomized controlled trials have found the drug isn't beneficial in treating hospitalized patients.

America's Frontline Doctors has a page dedicated to promoting unapproved and unproven treatment options for COVID-19. (The antiviral drug remdesivir is the only treatment for COVID-19 approved by the FDA, although the agency has granted emergency use authorization to others.)

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Ivermectin, a drug approved by the FDA to treat intestinal diseases and roundworms in humans, has become popular among vaccine skeptics as alleged alternative treatment for COVID-19, despite a lack of evidence that it’s effective in treating the disease. Some people are ingesting a version of the drug intended for horses, which is poisonous to humans.