Study: Political affiliation spurred hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin use for COVID-19

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Prescribing of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin for COVID-19 in 2020 was far higher in Republican-leaning counties across the United States, a new study has found. Photo by UPI | License Photo

Regions of the United States that voted Republican in the 2020 presidential election saw far more more hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin prescriptions written for people with COVID-19 than in Democratic areas, a study published Friday by JAMA Internal Medicine found.

After Food and Drug Administration revoked its emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine, prescriptions for the medication were more than twice as high in Republican-leaning counties nationally in the second half of 2020 than in those with a Democratic-majority, they said.

Ivermectin use was more than nine times higher in counties that voted Republican in 2020 than in those that went Democratic, according to the researchers.

“We’d all like to think of the healthcare system as basically non-partisan,” study co-author Michael Barnett said in a press release.

However, “the COVID-19 pandemic may have started to chip away at this assumption,” said Barnett, at assistant professor of health policy and management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

Most studies to date have found hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin to be ineffective against COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization.

However, both treatments have been touted by celebrities, political leaders, including former President Donald Trump, and others, despite the lack of scientific evidence supporting their use.

Prescriptions for ivermectin, a dewormer used in veterinary medicine, rose seven-fold between June and December 2020 compared with the same period in 2019, the researchers said.

The prescribing volume for hydroxychloroquine, which is used to treat malaria, among other diseases, was nearly twice as high in the final six months of 2020 as it had been during the same period the year before, the data showed.

For this study, Barnett and his colleagues compared prescription rates for the two drugs with those for two control medications, methotrexate sodium and albendazole, which are similar but have not been proposed as COVID-19 treatments.

Researchers looked at medical claims data for about 18.5 million adults in the United States from January 2019 through December 2020 and cross-referenced this information against census populations and 2020 U.S. presidential election results.

In 2019, prescribing of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin did not differ based on counties’ Republican vote share, the data showed.

“This is the first evidence, to our knowledge, of such a political divide for a basic clinical decision like infection treatment or prevention,” Barnett said.

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