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Hospital system in Oklahoma pushes back on Rolling Stone and NBC story of ivermectin illnesses

This story raises questions about the credibility of Rolling Stone, a local doctor and an NBC affiliate.

Published: September 5, 2021 1:40pm

Updated: September 5, 2021 2:31pm

A story from a local NBC affiliate in Oklahoma, picked up and cited in Rolling Stone magazine that has the Left in an uproar, turns out to apparently be false, yet Rolling Stone continues to carry the story on its website. 

The story, titled "Gunshot Victims Left Waiting as Horse Dewormer Overdoses Overwhelm Oklahoma Hospitals, Doctor Says," claims that the hospitals in parts of Oklahoma are overrun with people getting sick from having taken the drug ivermectin to treat illness from the virus that causes Covid-19. The article, by Peter Wade, claims that the overcrowding is so bad that people with gunshot wounds and other emergency requirements are unable to get into the hospitals for treatment. 

The source for the Rolling Stone story is a local NBC-TV affiliate, which cites Dr. Jason McElyea, described as a "rural Oklahoma doctor."

But the Northeastern Hospital System Sequoyah issued a statement, pushing back on the claim about the hospitals being overrun with people sick from taking ivermectin. Rolling Stone did post the statement at the top of its story, calling it an update, but left the story intact.

The statement reads as follows:

"Although Dr. Jason McElyea is not an employee of NHS Sequoyah, he is affiliated with a medical staffing group that provides coverage for our emergency room. With that said, Dr. McElyea has not worked at our Sallisaw location in over 2 months. NHS Sequoyah has not treated any patients due to complications related to taking ivermectin. This includes not treating any patients for ivermectin overdose. All patients who have visited our emergency room have received medical attention as appropriate. Our hospital has not had to turn away any patients seeking emergency care. We want to reassure our community that our staff is working hard to provide quality healthcare to all patients. We appreciate the opportunity to clarify this issue and as always, we value our community's support."

The Rolling Stone story has been very popular on Twitter, sent out, for example, by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow to her 10.5 million followers, according to the Washington Examiner. She has mocked and ridiculed ivermectin as a “horse dewormer” drug, suggesting it is clearly not something humans should be taking.

The issue over the use of ivermectin as a treatment or prophylactic for Covid has been a hotly debated issue. The drug, which has a version for animals as well as one for humans, has very successfully treated river blindness and other diseases.

In fact, the people who developed the drug won the Nobel Prize for it in 2015. At that time, the New York Times wrote that "Dr. Campbell and Dr. Omura developed Avermectin, the parent of Ivermectin, a medicine that has nearly eradicated river blindness and radically reduced the incidence of filariasis, which can cause the disfiguring swelling of the lymph system in the legs and lower body known as elephantiasis," and which “have provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually,” citing the Nobel Committee statement.

But the FDA has not approved it for treatment of Covid and has issued a statement telling people not to use it for that purpose. This may be because some people have self-medicated using the animal version of ivermectin. But others have suggested different reasons for dismissing the effectiveness of ivermectin, citing potential financial conflicts of interest.