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Amazon pushes deworming drug falsely touted as Covid treatment

This picture shows the tablets of Ivermectin drugs in Tehatta, West Benga, India on 19 May on 2021.

Soumyabrata Roy | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Amazon is directing users to an anti-parasitic drug falsely claimed to be a treatment for Covid-19.

The drug, called Ivermectin, is typically used to treat or prevent parasites in animals. In recent weeks, it has become the latest false cure for Covid-19, prompting warnings from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When CNBC searched for the term “iv” on Amazon, the website’s auto-complete function suggested a range of ivermectin products, including “ivermectin pills,” “ivermectin paste” and “ivermectin injectable.” The auto-complete search results are a sign that enough people have been searching for “ivermectin” that Amazon’s search algorithm was automatically trained to put it at the top of suggested results.

When CNBC searched for the term “iv” on Amazon, the website’s auto-complete function suggested a range of ivermectin products, including “ivermectin pills,” “ivermectin paste” and “ivermectin injectable.”

User reviews on some of the products appeared to make reference to false claims that ivermectin is a treatment for Covid-19. One review read, “Yes I used it for that. Two doses, completely gone. This stuff absolutely works. The rumors are true.”

User reviews on some of the products appeared to falsely attest to ivermectin’s effectiveness as a Covid-19 treatment.

On a separate ivermectin listing, one reviewer provided dosing directions and included a link to a website promoting Covid misinformation, including that ivermectin is “safe and effective” for treating Covid-19.

Representatives from Amazon didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Ivermectin can be used by humans in small doses to treat parasites such as head lice, but it is most commonly used by veterinarians to deworm large animals. While it has been referred to as a “wonder drug” for treating some parasitic illnesses, it has not been shown to be effective against Covid-19 or other viruses.

Still, it has gotten a lot of attention, including in some Facebook groups and Reddit communities, NBC News reported.

Prescriptions written for ivermectin are up 24-fold compared to before the pandemic, according to the CDC. Normally, about 3,600 prescriptions are written for ivermectin a week. “Since early July 2021, outpatient ivermectin dispensing has again begun to rapidly increase, reaching more than 88,000 prescriptions in the week ending August 13, 2021,” the CDC said.

Earlier this month, the FDA put out an advisory warning Americans not to ingest ivermectin.

Amazon has previously faced scrutiny over the sale of products with misleading coronavirus claims on its marketplace. Last February, amid a rise in products with suspect coronavirus claims, the company added a notice to searches for “coronavirus,” “Covid-19,” “n95 mask” and other terms that directed users to the CDC for more information about prevention and treatment of the disease.

Amazon has struggled to remove books and other products containing coronavirus misinformation. A recent study by University of Washington researchers found that more than 10% of Amazon products promote misinformative health products. Researchers examined books, e-books, audiobooks, apparel and dietary supplements.

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