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Facebook ad promotes the equine drug ivermectin as a COVID cure. Expert advice says it isn’t

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A drug commonly used to treat parasites in horses, cattle and dogs is being advertised as a COVID-19 cure in Facebook groups and paid ads on the company’s platforms, Euronews Next found.

Information from Facebook’s open “advertising library” shows that the company is currently showing users paid ads promoting ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19. While Ivermectin is used to treat some conditions in humans, the drug is not approved or approved for the treatment of COVID-19.

Euronews Next also found evidence of closed Facebook groups offering advice on how to get and use ivermectin, as well as examples of how it is being offered for sale on the Facebook marketplace and within Facebook groups.

Many of the active ads on Facebook were bought this week, days after Mississippi public health officials announced that “at least 70 percent” of recent poison control calls in the state were “related to livestock.” or animal formulations of ivermectin purchased from livestock centers “.

Facebook’s disinformation marketplace

A search of the Facebook advertising library conducted by Euronews Next on August 24th revealed a series of paid ads explicitly promoting Ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment for people among users in the United States.

One advert for a Louisiana pharmacy chain claimed it was “loaded with ivermectin” while another for an Arkansas clinic said “Yes, I use ivermectin to treat COVID” and claimed the drug had shown positive results.

Another ad promoting a wellness blogger’s site suggested that she used ivermectin along with eating kale and blueberries to boost her immunity to disease.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the World Health Organization (WHO) say ivermectin should only be used under direct medical supervision as part of controlled clinical trials for the treatment of COVID.

Facebook’s policy on misleading claims in ads on its platforms states that “Ads must not contain any misleading, false or misleading claims about the effectiveness or characteristics of a product or service”.

Euronews Next reached out to Facebook to raise concerns about the paid ads, marketplace listings, and groups spreading disinformation about COVID vaccines and ivermectin.

A Facebook spokesperson told Euronews Next: “We are not allowing ads promoting the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19, and have declined these ads. We also do not allow the sale of drugs on Facebook and will remove posts and ads that violate these rules.

However, at the time of publication, some advertisements for ivermectin and drug-related groups remained active.

‘Use at your own risk’

Facebook Marketplace, a service that enables users to buy and sell products, also hosted listings for Ivermectin.

A Florida-based seller who sells six tubes of apple-flavored ivermectin paste for horses told Euronews Next that “a lot of people” are using the drug to treat COVID-19, but claimed that it was “not selling it for that”.

“After you receive it, you can use it however you want,” he added.

When asked about the correct dosage of the paste for a person, he said, “You definitely need to use the correct dose,” adding, “I have a chart, but use is at your own risk.”

A spokesman for Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA), the UK’s medical device regulator, told Euronews Next that drugs must undergo solid clinical trials before they can be approved for specific uses.

“A drug containing ivermectin would only be given marketing authorization on the basis of solid data showing positive risk benefits for the quality, safety and efficacy of the product,” they said.

No such authorization has been obtained in the UK, US or EU.

“For animal use only”

A search on Facebook also revealed a large number of groups devoted to ivermectin. The largest closed group had over 25,000 members at the time Euronews Next joined.

There have been a large number of posts within these groups asking for advice on how to get and use ivermectin.

Wanting to know how much of the drug to take, some users posted photos of bottles of ivermectin clearly labeled “Animal Only”.

Other posts found by Euronews Next discussed the side effects of taking the drug. A user in a group based in South Africa said she was “dizzy … she can’t walk straight”.

“My vision gets strange when I take ivermectin [sic] couple of consecutive days, “said another.

The same group included a large number of items listing ivermectin for sale, some of which implicitly recognize the drug’s intended use in the treatment of cattle and horses against parasitic worms.

“Moo Moo Juice 500ml available,” said an ad that gave a price and a contact number for the seller.

In February, ivermectin maker Merck said its own analysis of studies using the drug to treat COVID-19 found that “there is no scientific basis for a possible therapeutic effect against COVID-19 from preclinical studies; no conclusive evidence ”. for clinical activity or clinical efficacy in patients with COVID-19 disease and A for the lack of safety data in most studies.

Anti-Vaccine Sentiment

Many of the groups Euronews Next joined contained anti-vaccine posts that spread disinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines.

The administrator of the largest ivermectin group, Euronews Next, has claimed that “a lay self-medication question, anti-Vaxxer post or comment will be banned immediately”. However, there was ample evidence of anti-vaccine sentiment within the closed group.

“No thanks, I won’t be the government’s guinea pig,” replied one group member to a post asking users to get vaccinated. “There’s an evil, hidden agenda at work,” said another.

The scariest posts in the group included wild and unsubstantiated claims that the COVID vaccines were toxic and contained “nanobots,” as well as the false claim that people who received the stings would die within two years.

Facebook under pressure

In the past few weeks, Facebook has come under increasing pressure to combat COVID-related disinformation on its platforms.

In July, US President Joe Biden criticized social media companies, saying the disinformation appearing on some platforms was “killing people”.

Biden later clarified his comments, saying they related to disinformation being shared by twelve specific Facebook accounts. The company has since announced that it has deleted the accounts.

Last year, Facebook launched its COVID-19 information center that guides users to localized information about the pandemic in their country. The prompts will appear alongside posts related to COVID or related topics such as the vaccine.

In a post responding to Biden’s criticism, Facebook claimed that “more than 2 billion people viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook,” and that over 3 million Americans used the company’s vaccine checker to find their closest location to find a bump.

But while the prompts Facebook displays can offer users warnings of COVID disinformation, they don’t prevent people from clicking links or sharing content.

“Every time I see this stupid COVID-19 warning from Facebook, I am forced to read the article in depth,” wrote one user under an article prompting “some unapproved COVID-19 treatments can be serious Cause damage ”was marked.

* Updated on 08/26/2021 at 02:45 a.m. CET with a comment from Facebook.

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