Covid-19 patients and front line health workers are paying the price of inaction
Photo: Matthew Waring, on Unsplash

“Do no harm” is not the same as doing nothing while people die

THE UK’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been the government’s responsibility, so the fact we have suffered so many fatalities and such huge economic damage compared to other countries speaks for itself.

However, at least some of the blame for our extraordinary death toll falls at the feet of a medical and scientific establishment that has shown itself incapable of effective action in a crisis situation.

Nowhere is this more apparent than with the failure to deploy the cheap and safe drug ivermectin – despite a mountain of data in support of its efficacy – as part of an early treatment protocol for those who test positive for SARS-CoV-2.

This has exposed a conflict the medical and scientific world must confront: the need for evidence-based medicine versus the urgent and time-sensitive need to save lives during a pandemic.

While our government – presumably on the advice of its medical, scientific and public health policy experts at the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) – continues to reject the use of ivermectin while it waits for the data from an Oxford University trial, this unresolved conflict is resulting in the deaths of thousands of people every week and arguably brings medicine and science into disrepute.

Thousands are dying while we wait for more trials on drugs that are known to be safe

The current stance of the medical and scientific establishment is not only fatally flawed, but exceptions to its traditionally cautious approach have been inconsistent and selectively applied in favour of some endeavours but not others.

Right now if you contract the SARS-CoV-2 virus and you develop the illness it causes, Covid-19, you will receive no medical treatment at all – until you are sick enough to be sent to hospital.

Given that prevention is better than cure, the catastrophic death toll that health workers have witnessed is hardly surprising.

Of course, there can be no recognised or appropriately trialled treatment for a novel virus and a novel illness. However, the demand for the “gold standard” of evidence-based medicine has prevented doctors from being allowed to innovate during the course of their daily work while trying to save lives.

Like World War I footsoldiers, they have been sent to the trenches ill prepared for battle by their generals.

Enter the Frontline Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC), comprised of a group of physicians from around the world with roughly 2,000 peer-reviewed publications between them. They set themselves the task of repurposing existing medications with very well known safety profiles.

They recognised that in a pandemic the priority is saving lives and they understood administering a drug that may help – but would cause no harm even if it did not work – was a legitimate approach and far more constructive and ethical than withholding that drug and watching patients die while waiting for large-scale trials on its efficacy.

They have done an amazing job and in the process saved countless lives. In the course of their work they pioneered the use of steroids on hospitalised Covid-19 patients and they went on to develop an early treatment protocol using ivermectin – a drug developed in 1975 to treat parasites that won its inventor a Nobel Prize and is included on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medicines.

The FLCCC has found the use of ivermectin, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties, is 90 per cent effective as prophylaxis. This means it could be used to protect health workers and teachers in the course of their work and arguably would allow an immediate end to lockdowns.

When used as part of an early treatment protocol, the FLCCC also found ivermectin cut death rates from Covid-19 by somewhere in the region of 80 per cent.

The FLCCC has provided huge amounts of data on ivermectin’s efficacy from at least 27 trials globally involving more than 6,500 patients – 16 of those being randomised, controlled trials, five of them double blind and one single blind.

Unfortunately, while its findings on the use of steroids have been embraced, the use of ivermectin has met with resistance on the grounds of “lack of evidence base” – in a nutshell, the FLCCC’s data does not come from a large-scale trial by a pharmaceutical company or a recognised academic research institution.

The often closed mindset of both policy makers and many doctors towards any data that comes from outside of those channels has led to the work of the FLCCC, and its stunning success with patients, being dismissed out of hand because it does not conform to usual standards of evidence-based medicine that cannot possibly be met in a pandemic situation.

This dogmatic rejection of the FLCCC’s work has led to dismissive coverage by a lazy, unchallenging and sometimes dishonest media – this article by Associated Press immediately comes to mind – while YouTube has chosen to delegitimise the campaign for ivermectin through censorship, by taking down video footage of FLCCC president Dr Pierre Kory’s testimony on the efficacy of ivermectin to a US Senate committee.

Dr Pierre Kory’s testimony to the US Senate committee, courtesy of Vimeo

All of which has left the FLCCC doctors – a group of highly qualified and experienced physicians with huge amounts of integrity – fighting to be heard, while those who have spotted the significance of their work are ignored or derided by media and even politicians as “covidiots” or “conspiracy theorists spreading disinformation”.

And here is the rub. While our government and its medical, scientific and public health policy experts have so far refused to embrace ivermectin for want of even more evidence, they have bent over backwards to allow big drug companies to take shortcuts.

Ministers have bought into drugs that don’t work – such as Remdesivir – and they have been happy to indemnify drug companies at taxpayer expense for any damages that might be caused by “experimental” vaccines that have been rushed to market, which may not stop you catching or spreading the virus and which may not work against future or even existing mutations.

This is where public scepticism creeps in, and it has nothing to do with whether or not you are a pro- or anti-vaxxer. People can see for themselves the double standards and instinctively recognise that corporate corruption of politics, medicine, science and public health policy is an issue.

It needs to be remembered that until now there has never, ever been a successful vaccine for any coronavirus.

And yet our politicians have jumped feet first into a mass vaccination campaign based upon the assumption we have now discovered at least three – from AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna – all at once, and they will all work.

Not only that, but the effort to mass vaccinate is far more expensive and far harder to achieve than deployment of an early treatment protocol using ivermectin.

We are confidently assured this huge vaccination programme will work – by a government that could not competently organise the supply of PPE for its health workers and has wasted billions on a failed outsourced test and trace effort – and we are sold the dubious narrative that our only chance of being free again rests upon everybody being inoculated by a vaccine whose efficacy is still unknown.

And at the same time we are told we cannot use ivermectin – one of the safest drugs known to man – because “we need more trials”.

That our government is pursuing the more challenging option of a mass vaccination rollout that may not even work at the exclusion of adopting an early treatment protocol and the use of ivermectin is so logically indefensible and egregiously unethical that the continuing death of thousands of people each week is arguably a crime against humanity.

It also stinks to high heaven. No wonder conspiracy theorists are supposedly having a field day. After all, it is hard to imagine that decision making can be this bad by accident, or that media outlets can so thoughtlessly connive with it while ignoring so many needless fatalities and so much unnecessary suffering.

Ivermectin was first mooted as a potential cure for Covid-19 back in April last year. That we are still waiting for government to allow doctors to use it almost a year later is beyond belief.

And this is not an isolated case of failure. Many lives could also have been saved had the government and its advisers acted on data available very early on showing vitamin D deficiency was a key factor in bad outcomes for those who contracted SARS-CoV-2, and that a bolus dose of vitamin D upon hospitalisation could dramatically cut death rates.

This country’s disastrous handling of the pandemic is a monumental collective failure of government, medicine, science, public health policy makers and the media.

Much of the blame for this is the extent to which all of them have been compromised by corporate interests and influence.

Once the dust has settled and the crisis is over, the medical and scientific establishment will have to face up to its part in this disaster.

It will need to restore its integrity and independence from big drug companies while acknowledging the concept of “do no harm” is not the same as doing nothing while waiting for trials and allowing people to die.

# The author of this article has children who have received vaccinations and is not an anti-vaxxer. He supported the first lockdown when it looked like thousands would die for want of a ventilator. He also believes in the efficacy of wearing a mask, although he is sympathetic towards those who do not, or otherwise object. However, in light of the facts about ivermectin, he opposes continued lockdowns, questions the need for a mass vaccination programme and rejects vociferously the idea of vaccine passports and any censorship of debate over vaccination. While remaining happy to wear a mask, he also takes a daily vitamin D supplement since the data says it protects people against contracting SARS-CoV-2 and it increases their chances of suffering only mild symptoms should they still get it. Above all the author is convinced this crisis should have ended many months ago.

Journalist of 20 years, wondering how on earth we got here and how to get somewhere better