The study published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) included 13,438 people who said they had previously contracted COVID-19 infections. This group included adults from all 50 U.S. states.
Among study participants, 6 percent said they had used either ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine to treat their infections. Neither drug is approved for treating SARS-CoV-2 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Ivermectin is used in humans to treat infections caused by parasitic worms, head lice or rosacea. Hydroxychloroquine was briefly authorized by the FDA for treating COVID-19 in 2020, however, that was canceled a couple of months later when clinical studies found the drug was unlikely to be effective against the virus and carried some potentially serious side effects.
Researchers in the study published last week found that people who endorsed even just one piece of misinformation about vaccines had a "significantly greater likelihood" of turning to unproven treatments.
Other groups who were more likely to take these drugs were those who reported they trusted social media, those who scored higher on the American Conspiracy Thinking Scale as well people who said they trusted former President Trump.
People who reported receiving their information from sources like CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and Facebook were also more likely to say they had received a non-evidence-based treatment.
"In general, cable news sources regardless of perspective were associated with increased odds for both non-evidence based and FDA-approved antiviral treatment. Facebook did not follow this pattern: odds of non evidence based but not FDA-approved treatment were markedly greater with Facebook as a news source," the researchers found.
While politically conservative people were found to be more likely to endorse unproven medications like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, researchers noted partisan affiliation was not the only indicator. Vaccine misinformation, mistrust in healthcare institutions and conspiratorial thinking all contributed to the likelihood of someone using those drugs. Researchers noted none of those factors were "proxies" for political affiliation.
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