WHEN DAVID BOULWARE read that a cheap and plentiful drug called ivermectin had shown some promise in treating covid-19, he was eager to study it. The University of Minnesota physician and infectious disease researcher had seen a few small but encouraging studies on the drug, which was most often used to treat parasites in both animals and people. Boulware set up the study early in 2021 with a methodology considered to be the gold standard: the randomized controlled trial, where one group of patients receives the drug, and the other gets a placebo.
In May, Boulware’s team put the word out about the study, aiming to recruit 1,100 volunteers. But then something strange happened: He began to receive hostile emails from people who fervently believed that ivermectin was a miracle cure for covid, and that administering a placebo to some participants was therefore unethical. “Are you a reembodied nazi Josef Mengele?” wrote one in an email. “Eliminate your plan to abuse people as needless controls. You have a duty of care.”
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