Republicans have apparently taken it upon themselves to ensure that Americans continue to receive terrible medical advice now that Donald Trump is no longer offering it up from the White House podium. In the spirit of the former president—whose own penchant for unproven and often dangerous COVID-19 treatments has included suggesting Americans inject bleach or expose themselves to “very powerful light”—Senator Ron Johnson has for months supplemented his vaccine conspiracy theories with enthusiasm for unsound COVID-19 treatments. Most recently, he’s latched onto ivermectin, a deworming drug intended for horses and other livestock, and with the assistance of conservative media, helped prompt a warning from the FDA after people were hospitalized for taking it. The anti-parasitic is approved for certain uses in humans, such as head lice, but it “has repeatedly failed in clinical trials to help people infected with the coronavirus,” according to the New York Times.
Now, the Wisconsin senator is among the GOP lawmakers claiming that the agency’s opposition to ivermectin is not because it hasn’t been shown to be effective for treating or preventing COVID-19, or the uptick in poison control calls from people who have taken it, but the result of political bias. In issuing a warning against the use of ivermectin, the FDA is “doing far more than dismissing me, they’re attacking me,” Johnson told Cheryl Chumley, the opinion editor of the conservative Washington Times, on her podcast last week, according to the Wisconsin Examiner. “I don’t care what drug will work. Try a bunch of them,” said the senator, who has no medical expertise or background.
Johnson has regularly undermined proven medical treatments such as ventilators and the highly effective and safe vaccine that the FDA has already fully approved for the prevention of COVID-19 in those 16 and older. He went on a different podcast last week to claim that the FDA authorizing Pfizer’s product while warning against horse medicine is “all about…the political goal of having mandates,” he said, a perceived threat to personal freedom that the senator has said he opposes “unless there’s some incredibly deadly disease.”
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who like Johnson has been suspended from social media platforms for spreading false information about COVID-19, likewise suggested that the FDA’s resistance to ivermectin is based not in a lack of proof or concerns about its potential toxicity but an aversion to those who have promoted such experimental COVID-19 treatments. “The hatred for Trump deranged these people so much, they’re unwilling to objectively study it,” Paul—a frequent critic of science-backed preventative measures—told constituents in a town hall last week, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I don’t know if it works, but I keep an open mind,” the Kentucky lawmaker, who before politics was an ophthalmologist, told the outlet when asked about the warnings on ivermectin. In the town hall, he had told the audience that a lack of research—hindered by scientists’ political views—deprived him of an answer. “Someone like me that’s in the middle on it, I can’t tell you because they will not study ivermectin,” he said. “They will not study hydroxychloroquine without the taint of their hatred for Donald Trump.”
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