A new survey in JAMA Health Forum of 13,438 US respondents shows 6% reported using either ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine to self-treat COVID-19 infections, despite no evidence either drug works to treat the virus.
The study was conducted between December 22, 2022, and January 16, 2023, and the average age of respondents was 42.7 years, and 68.1% were women.
Among respondents, 799 (5.9%) reported prior use of hydroxychloroquine (527 [3.9%]) or ivermectin (440 [3.3%]), two therapies discussed in the first months of the pandemic as possible treatments for the virus, but later dismissed in a number of clinical trials. Despite the lack of evidence, the treatments gained popularity among Americans who were more likely to question the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.
As the survey included questions about political beliefs, the authors were able to show that those who endorsed at least one item of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation were more likely to receive non–evidence-based medication (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 2.86; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.28 to 3.58).
The potential harms of misinformation may extend to the use of ineffective and potentially toxic treatments.
Trust in physicians and science was associated with not using the treatments, (OR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.56 to 0.98) but greater likelihood of receiving antiviral treatment (OR, 1.54; 95% CI, 1.11 to 2.14).
"These results suggest that the potential harms of misinformation may extend to the use of ineffective and potentially toxic treatments in addition to avoidance of health-promoting behaviors," the authors concluded.