- Joe Rogan’s COVID-19 recovery set right-wing media buzzing over his use of alternative drugs.
- Contrary to public-health guidance, Rogan had a doctor prescribe him ivermectin.
- The horse dewormer has captivated the right in a similar way to hydroxychloroquine.
Joe Rogan, a podcast host who is not a doctor, returned to his audience of millions on Tuesday to recount how he’d recovered from COVID-19 despite being unvaccinated.
When Rogan announced he contracted the virus last week, he disclosed that he was taking a variety of drugs ranging from monoclonal antibodies to ivermectin, a horse dewormer that also comes as a drug doctors can prescribe to humans infected by parasites. The CDC issued a health advisory warning physicians against prescribing ivermectin to treat or prevent COVID-19 infections, and there’s no evidence to suggest ivermectin has any positive effect on them.
Over 40 million Americans have recovered from coronavirus, many without being hospitalized or taking prescribed treatments like monoclonal antibodies. Still, Rogan’s return to his podcast studio highlighted not only how far the right has bought into ivermectin as an unproven alternative to vaccines, but also how the comedian and UFC commentator can influence right-wing pundits with followings dwarfed by his own.
‘Here’s a message’
Several high profile health experts have said they were troubled that Rogan included ivermectin in his “kitchen sink” regimen to fight off COVID, mainly because people have been seeking out the non-prescription form of the drug at livestock feed stores. Higher doses intended for animals can cause serious problems in humans, and the FDA and CDC have advised against taking ivermectin simply because it hasn’t been found to be effective with COVID infections.
Rogan took issue with media coverage conflating his ivermectin — which he says he was prescribed by a doctor — with the livestock version.
A joint letter from the American Medical Association and two pharmacist groups also cautioned against prescribing the drug outside of what it’s been approved for by the FDA, given the spike in ivermectin prescriptions amid the Delta variant despite its lack of FDA approval.
“We are urging physicians, pharmacists, and other prescribers — trusted healthcare professionals in their communities — to warn patients against the use of ivermectin outside of FDA-approved indications and guidance,”
As medical experts have pointed out, Rogan bears responsibility for touting treatments dismissed by researchers and public health officials, given his large following and platform on Spotify.
During his Tuesday interview with fellow comedian Tom Segura, Rogan went on a tangent about the strength of his immune system and how he may not have contracted the virus if he didn’t drink after one of his stand-up shows in Florida.
“Here’s a message: The thing that fucked me is drinking,” Rogan said. “I think that really fucked me. I bet if I went home early, went to the hotel early Friday night, got sleep like I normally do, I bet it would have never got me.”
The right-wing media frenzy over ivermectin — now with Rogan as its most famous champion — has closely mirrored that of hydroxychloroquine in both its proliferation and the communication tactics behind it.
Hydroxychloroquine was debunked as an effective prophylactic against COVID-19 before vaccinations were available, its embrace by pro-Trump figures ranging from Republican governors to social media influencers largely resembles how ivermectin has begun to proliferate the conservative political discourse.
Fringe pundits known for peddling conspiracy theories and misinformation have latched onto ivermectin in recent weeks, including Alex Jones of InfoWars, who appeared to take it live on his show last Friday.
Candace Owens, a frequent source of COVID-19 falsehoods, touted her Tuesday show with a discussion of Rogan’s recovery.
Charlie Kirk, the president and founder of Turning Point USA, likewise took a victory lap by using Rogan’s recovery to try to undermine confidence in vaccines, even though all three US-approved versions reduce the risk of severe disease by at least 90%.
—Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) September 6, 2021
The first story listed on The Daily Wire’s homepage on Wednesday morning, meanwhile, was about Rogan’s recovery and his grievances with CNN’s coverage of his use of ivermectin.
While the sitting president may no longer be promoting an unproven coronavirus treatment the way Donald Trump did with hydroxychloroquine, the right-wing media ecosystem has been galvanized by ivermectin in largely the same ways.
Both drugs have served as a way to further the pandemic culture wars by offering an alternative to effective public-health measures such as masking and vaccines. Both Jones and Rogan have suggested, falsely, that COVID-19 shots are part of a conspiracy led by the pharmaceutical industry.
Rogan can bring attention to a drug like ivermectin in a way few other figures can in American culture. Regardless of his intentions, there’s a right-wing media apparatus and a host of other actors ready to profit from it in the form of clicks and sales for supplements sponsoring their various shows.
Unlike with hydroxychloroquine, it remains to be seen whether ivermectin will have any long-term staying power, or if it will be taken over by a new trend just like before.