A friend, a person who has been a diligent reader of this newspaper, sent me a letter the other day about ivermectin. That’s the anti-parasite drug that some people have been taking because they think it will help prevent or treat the coronavirus.

The upshot of her letter was that I should be speaking out in this column to promote ivermectin. Central to her case was the notion that the U.S. government and medical establishment were purposely ignoring it, refusing even to study it, and therefore people like me need to be loudly advocating it, or at the very least asking lots of questions.

There’s one major problem with that line of argumentation: It’s not true.

There are two substantial studies underway in the U.S. about the use of ivermectin against the virus. We should all have some more information in a few weeks. Preliminary results are expected in December.

The early indications from other studies have not been particularly promising, which is why authorities are discouraging the use of drug. And meanwhile people have inadvertently poisoned themselves by using too much of it in amateur attempts at self-medication.

A new pill by Merck has emerged successful from trials and may be on the market soon to be used to treat patients with Covid. There are other medications as well that are under study, including an antidepressant and a diabetes medication that may, for some reason, help against the coronavirus.

Clearly anything that helps people deal more effectively with the virus — reducing the chance that they’ll catch it, and/or improving their outcomes if they do catch it — is something that we ought to prioritize and promote, as a society. That’s my view, and my guess is, the view of anybody who thinks about it rationally.

That includes most significantly the vaccines, of course, which are highly effective. It includes whatever therapeutics prove to work effectively, and it includes, say, healthy lifestyles such that people aren’t so susceptible to illness from the outset.

None of these things are the magic bullet. That’s why we’re also being advised to help with other measures, such as wearing masks and staying physically distant from one another indoors.

For reasons I can’t understand, some people are against using masks or the vaccine — for which the scientific evidence is overwhelming — but very enthusiastic about ivermectin.

I’m not in a position to say that ivermectin will ultimately prove useless; I don’t think anybody is in a position to say anything conclusive about it yet. Enthusiasm at this point amounts to faith in...something. Not sure what.

That’s why I’m not using this column to promote that drug. I’m using it to promote the vaccine. If the trials prove that ivermectin works, I’ll be back here banging the drum for it.

That makes me neither a liberal nor a conservative. It does not make me a sheep, or for that matter some sort of hero. Hey, I just read the paper.

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