How many people do you know that swear by all they hold sacred that one of these drugs, and in desperate instances, both, saved them from dying of Covid? How many people do you know that use this rationale as evidence of the efficacy of the drugs and as yet another unfounded reason to besmirch vaccines?
Ask a room full of people any of the above and a lot of hands would go up. They would, of course, all be wrong. The reasons are relatively simple and straightforward, the logic undeniable and yet millions of Americans still pursue these drugs, in some instances forfeiting their lives in the process.
To understand why the evidence for the success of these drugs as a treatment for Covid isn’t compelling, we need to establish a few facts first. For instance, take the following question. Just how much risk is there of Covid killing you? It seems like a simple question to answer, but in truth, it is anything but.
Case Fatality Rates, CMR, and IFR
The probability that someone dies from a disease doesn’t just depend on the disease itself, but also on the treatment they receive, and on the patient’s own ability to recover from it. This makes interpreting data complex and very nuanced.
Catching SARS-CoV2 and developing Covid isn’t a death sentence, not for most of the people who contract it. Global figures based on PCR testing reflect over 222 million cases to date. Of these cases, 4.5 million have proved fatal. The press will tell you this works out roughly at a risk ratio of around 2%, commonly referred to as the Case Fatality Rate (CFR), where the number of deaths is divided by the number of cases. The press is wrong.
Not to be confused with the Crude Mortality Rate (CMR), CFR is far from perfect in determining your personal risk from Covid. There are a few problems using CFR, the most obvious being the reported number of infected in a population. Cases could underreport infections as not everyone is tested and some patients present as asymptomatic (no symptoms).
CFR can decrease or increase over time, as responses change; and that it can vary by location and by the characteristics of the infected population, such as age, or sex. For instance, older populations would expect to see a higher CFR from COVID-19 than younger ones. For similar reasons, the Crude Mortality Rate or CMR is also not a reliable indicator.
So if neither the CFR nor CMR are a good indicator for risk, where do we turn. The scientific community (not the press and media) uses another measure called the Infection Mortality Rate, or IMR. This is the number of deaths from a disease divided by the total number of cases. If 10 people die of the disease, and 500 actually have it, then the IFR is [10 / 500], or 2%.
To work out the IFR, we need two numbers: the total number of cases and the total number of deaths, but some of you may already have figured out that we don’t know the true number of cases and probably never will. We cannot test everyone and many are, as discussed earlier, asymptomatic, so researchers will use a ‘best guess’ in their calculation. Far from ideal, but we have no other method.
Despite what some press and media reports imply, the CFR is not the same as, or, even similar to the IFR. If the CFR is 2% then in reality the IFR for Covid will be far lower. For the purposes of this piece, let’s assume it to be 1%. For every 100 confirmed Covid cases, 1 patient will die.
And that is where the rub lies for treatments of the infection, particularly treatments that rely on early-stage administration. Drugs like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin and treatments like monoclonal antibody infusions. It is only possible to tell if these drugs work in a clinical setting.
Pepsi® is the miracle cure
If all the 100 infected patients were to self-administer Pepsi® at home, 99 would statistically survive and 1 patient would die. People would sing the praises of Pepsi® and stores would be looted as a naive population stockpiled Pepsi®, just in case. The unfortunate patient who died would have had to stop drinking Pepsi®. Being intubated has its drawbacks.
The press and general public would of course be able to extrapolate these data and expand them to reach the following conclusions. Pepsi® is effective against Covid, offering you up to 99% protection. It isn’t an effective treatment in the late stages of the disease, so make sure you order your Pepsi® early from Americas’ Frontline Doctors (AFLDS). Sound familiar?
Obviously the above is an analogy, please don’t rush out and buy Pepsi® in the mistaken belief it will help your body combat Covid. The point is that exactly the same principle applies to ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. If 99 out of 100 people were going to survive no matter what, then arguably you could ascribe their recovery to literally anything, including Pepsi®, Coke, Dr. Pepper’s, or tap water.
There are however mouth-watering sums of money to be made out of a gullible public that has in large part lost confidence in the system. A public that is in many ways its own worst enemy, spreading news of miracle cures online and belittling science and themselves in the process.
If you are one of the true believers, I hope you’re still reading and I’d recommend reading the above again. Let it really sink in.
Clearly, this problem isn’t merely limited to ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine. It affects all early-stage treatments and there are carefully controlled situations where the real efficacy of the treatments can be assessed and monitored, but these are also fraught with pitfalls.
Is there any way of proving that drugs or treatments do help?
Yes and no. Speak to almost any frontline doctor that’s been embedded in the Covid wards since the start of the pandemic and they’ll tell you the following. HCQ and ivermectin make no difference to the mortality rate of patients in their wards.
This, you can correctly argue, could simply be because the patient is too far gone by the time they are admitted for the drugs to have any effect. True, but in that case, please refer to the preceding argument.
Ideally, patients would need to be identified in the early stages of infection, treated with the drugs, and then have the viral load in their systems monitored. This method assumes that we have established viral loads across all patient populations and variants. We cannot identify deviations from the disease’s natural progression without these control data.
Sadly, a trial of this nature would be unable to correctly identify if the treatments actually ‘cure’ the patient or if they simply speed up the patient’s natural ability to recover. Something, let’s remind ourselves, 99 out of 100 were going to do in any case. Again, this problem isn’t mutually exclusive to ivermectin and HCQ, it affects the assessment of all Covid treatments.
To be able to confirm without a doubt that a treatment is effective against the onset of death from Covid, the treatment would need to prove effective in reducing mortality in admitted patients. That is the gold standard and doctors will tell you, it doesn’t apply to either ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine.
Vaccines however do work. That 1% can be reduced to 0.05% if you simply get vaccinated. That’s a proven fact.