The New York Times erupted into print this week, reporting on an ivermectin trial. After 43 trials and 64 other studies which it has essentially ignored, there’s obviously something very special to now excite the NYT out of its stupor and enter this increasingly active debate.
Well, “special” is a very relative term. Yes, this study was indeed extremely special, but in the worst possible ways. It should win an award for being the most laughably non-scientific study ever conducted, but instead it was anointed with publication in a formerly respected US peer-reviewed medical journal, JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association).
The trial comprised two groups of 200 people, one being given ivermectin for five days, the other a “control group” and not getting any ivermectin at all. On the face of it, that’s a good start for a potentially good trial, but an astonishing thing happened. During the course of the trial, the control group was “accidentally” given some ivermectin, too. So both the study group and the control group received ivermectin.
Would you be surprised to learn there was therefore little difference between the outcomes of the two groups? You’d expect nothing less, because both groups received ivermectin, merely in different doses.
Accidentally giving the control group the same medicine as the study group should have caused the trial to be immediately abandoned. Alternatively, if the trial proceeded, the peer review process prior to publication should have refused to approve the trial write-up. It is unthinkable that this study was allowed to proceed and to be published after such an egregious mistake, particularly because ivermectin doses vary widely and even a single dose (like the “mistake” dose) is claimed to provide strong benefits.
This was confirmed, because both the study and control groups had significantly lower mortality rates – 0.5% instead of a more general rate of 3.1% in the wider population. Clearly, the trial proved that both a single dose for a five days series of doses massively reduces mortality, but that’s not the conclusion the trial researchers announced.
Did the JAMA or NYT point this out and use it to ridicule a sloppy poorly done study? Ummm, no. Instead the NYT was full of barely concealed criticism of people who support ivermectin.
There were other disappointing elements of the study as well, including something that reminds me of the bad old days when cigarette companies would sponsor studies that “proved” there was no link between smoking and lung cancer. In this case, members of the research team were receiving grants of one type or another from
- Glaxo (vaccine developer)
- Sanofi Pasteur (another vaccine developer)
- Janssen (J&J vaccine partner)
- Merck (ivermectin hater and competing anti-viral drug developer)
- Gilead (remdesivir seller)
So, the researchers have conflicting interests, “accidentally” invalidated their study but still proceeded with it, designed it poorly, still had positive outcomes, but described them in disparaging terms, and now this farce of a study is being triumphantly being shouted as “proving” ivermectin doesn’t work, when actually it provides more proof of how well it does work.
Here’s a more detailed and technical analysis of the study. its shortcomings and findings.
If you’ve a feeling of deja vu, then you’re right. Similar techniques, and either totally fabricated studies or poorly designed ones were used to create a few “headline” studies to “prove” that hydroxychloroquine is similarly useless, and HCQ’s detractors uniformly focus on these few studies, while ignoring the study shortcomings and ignoring the rest of the 264 studies and their positive findings.
The biggest lesson of this study, to me, is to see how the NYT pounced on it as a way to pretend that ivermectin is no good. But the biggest puzzle, to me, is why the NYT is so keen to get on the wrong side of this discussion?
There is, of course, no doubt at all about why big pharma is so anti-ivermectin. There’s no money to be made making a public-domain low-cost generic drug that sells for pennies a dose, and which all other drug companies could also make. But there are fortunes to be made with esoteric ultra-expensive patented new drugs.
For example, Merck has just announced preliminary results that “show promise” of a new anti-viral drug currently in a “mid-stage” study. The Wall St Journal obediently obliged by publishing little more than a press release from Merck, and nowhere noted that Merck also manufactures ivermectin, which has a massive body of existing evidence showing the reality of its benefits as a Covid anti-viral drug already.
Interestingly, the drug, molnupiravir, has some awkward allegations against it in terms of its safety. That’s not something you’ll see prominently mentioned in Merck’s press releases, either.
The main stream media are so appallingly ignorant about so much to do with the virus, but then are cited as authorities (by people who are even more ignorant). For example, an article, originally from Bloomberg, claims the “world’s worst Covid crisis is unfolding in Brazil”.
There’s just one small point about the headline. It is wrong. The Czech Republic currently is suffering five times the rate of Covid infections that Brazil is suffering, and in total, has suffered 2 1/2 times as many cases per million as Brazil.
Here’s an interesting article, headed “Why Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine is probably the best shot“. The key part of that headline is not the word “best”, it is the word “probably”. The obscured truth in this and most other articles is that the data available to us on all the vaccines out there is patchy, incomplete, and unsatisfactory.
As an example of a rare article that does actually look at some of the gaps in what vaccine testing has uncovered, this article is excellent, as is the source article the author links to.
One last item for the introductory comments. Does Canada just not care?
The typical path of a Covid infection is from initial infection to mild symptoms, to more severe symptoms, to hospitalization, to ICU, and then to death, with of course, the potential at every point for the infection to resolve itself and go away.
But it is exceedingly rare for a person to be admitted to hospital and die without first being taken to the ICU for a last ditch battle against the disease. In Canada, for patients between say 20 and 29, 1 in every 195 people with detected symptoms went to hospital, 1 in every 1,328 went to the ICU and 1 in every 34,190 died.
That’s sort of the “funnel effect” you’d expect. Fewer and fewer people at each more serious stage of the infection.
But now look at these statistics, and note an interesting thing. For the 60-69 year olds, almost everyone who goes to the ICU dies, and for the 70-79 year olds, twice as many people are dying than are admitted to an ICU. It is even more extreme for the over 80 year olds – 16 times more people die than are admitted to ICUs. Basically, every person over 80 who gets admitted to hospital in Canada, dies, and rarely gets admitted to an ICU prior to dying, and it seems, once you reach your 70s, you’ve a worse than 50/50 chance of never being allowed into an ICU.
No changes in US rankings. Montenegro and Gibraltar swapped places in the minor country list. In the major country list, Spain dropped two places, and Argentina dropped off the list entirely, being replaced by Poland.
On the death list, over 2% of the Czech Republic have now died of the virus.
US Best and Worst States
|A week ago||Now||A week ago||Now|
|1 Best||HI (19,464)||HI (19,699)||HI (310)||HI (314)|
|2||VT (24,356)||VT (25,774)||VT (327)||VT (333)|
|4||OR (36,891)||OR (37,291)||ME (523)||ME (525)|
|5||WA (45,024)||WA (45,661)||OR (524)||OR (544)|
|47||IA (115,212)||IA (116,337)||MS (2,245)||MS (2,288)|
|48||UT (115,795)||UT (116,923)||MA (2,338)||MA (2,382)|
|49||RI||RI||RI (2,362)||RI (2,399)|
|50||SD||SD||NY (2,459)||NY (2,497)|
|51 Worst||ND (130,972)||ND (131,736)||NJ (2,618)||NJ (2,654)|
Top Case Rates Minor Countries (cases per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Andorra (140,484)||Andorra (142,756)|
|2||Gibraltar (125,846)||Montenegro (127,004)|
|4||San Marino||San Marino|
|9||Aruba (73,702)||Aruba (75,741)|
|10||Lithuania (73,174)||Lithuania (75,000)|
Top Case Rates Major Countries (cases per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Czech Republic (115,227)||Czech Republic (123,229)|
|2||USA (88,042)||USA (89,359)|
|3||Portugal (79,057)||Portugal (79,605)|
|7||Netherlands (63,443)||Netherlands (65,270)|
|8||UK (61,310)||UK (61,919)|
|9||France (57,458)||France (59,723)|
|11||Italy (48,429)||Italy (50,785)|
|12||Argentina (46,346)||Poland (47,462)|
Top Death Rate Major Countries (deaths per million)
|Rank||One Week Ago||Today|
|1||Czech Republic (1,897)||Czech Republic (2,025)|
|2||Belgium (1,897)||Belgium (1,913)|
|3||UK (1,803)||UK (1,827)|
|4||Italy (1,617)||Italy (1,652)|
|5||Portugal (1,603)||Portugal (1,625)|
|6||USA (1,582)||USA (1,618)|
|7||Spain (1,478)||Spain (1,521)|
|8||Mexico (1,427)||Mexico (1,466)|
|9||Peru (1,391)||Peru (1,433)|
|10||France (1,323)||France (1,355)|
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Items below include the continuing controversy on vaccine dosing plans, how to prepare for your vaccine, why 8 cases “prove” a vaccine but 8,000 cases don’t prove ivermectin, and my own approach to choosing a vaccine and when I’ll be vaccinated. Then there’s the dismaying reality that as taxpayers, our $1400 next “bonus” checks are almost exactly one tenth the extra cost we have to pay to cover the $1.9 trillion spending that “gives” us our bonuses, a look at climbing vaccine and case rates around the world, and a dismaying glimpse of ignorance in action in Boise, ID.
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Please stay happy and healthy; all going well, I’ll be back again on Thursday.
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1 thought on “Covid-19 Diary : Sunday 7 March, 2021”
I agree that the headline on the New York Times piece is misleading, but the article itself, though hardly comprehensive, is reasonably even-handed. The underlying study report is transparent about the screwup that led to the control subjects getting ivermectin for a week. It then states that, for the purposes of the primary analysis, those subjects were replaced.
In my opinion, the main problem with the study was the “primary analysis” itself. They set out to determine whether the drug reduces the duration of symptoms. Speaking personally, I don’t much care about that. I want to know if it prevents hospitalization and possible death. But given a median age of 37 for the test subjects, they were never going to be able to conclude anything useful about that.