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A nurse gathers COVID testing materials to administer a test at Sheridan Memorial Hospital's Urgent Care Center Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021.

In response to Dr. Scott Nickerson’s most recent opinion letter (The Sheridan Press, Jan. 8), I would like to provide some clarity from a non-retired physician, who is actively caring for patients.

If Nickerson is embarrassed to be a scientist and physician, he should ask himself why some of his views are in such opposition to the overwhelming majority of physicians and scientists. I intend no disrespect, but the level of conspiracy and intellectual malice implied by his letter to the editor deserves a rebuttal. There is no conspiracy to censor the use of hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin or fluvoxamine. Scientists and physicians are critically appraising the available data and the fact that the overwhelming majority of physicians don’t prescribe such medicines routinely for COVID-19 is telling in and of itself. I am familiar with the sources he has previously cited and disagree with the suppositions he and they have put forth, based simply upon a critical review of the available evidence.

The reason hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin and fluvoxamine (which is the medication I believe Nickerson intended to write instead of fluoxetine) are not used widely here is that, again, the quality and amount of evidence does not support their use in the prevention or treatment of COVID-19. There is some data of benefit for fluvoxamine in terms of COVID-19 hospitalization reduction but not mortality, and the level of data to support that position is somewhat limited. Are these cost effective treatments for other conditions? Yes. Are they generally safe medications? Yes. Do they demonstrably work in preventing COVID-19 illness or treating infection? No. Would more data help? In the case of ivermectin and fluvoxamine, maybe, and some research is on-going, but as a practicing physician, the available data doesn’t provide me with a belief they are effective in this regard.

Meanwhile, there is an incredible amount of data on the available vaccines for prevention and amelioration of COVID-19 illness, and they are overwhelmingly safe and effective. Again, you should consult your health care provider to make an informed decision for your own medical situation. The data for the newly available treatments molnupiravir, and nirmatrelfvir/ritonavir demonstrate good efficacy at reducing morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 but certainly have potential adverse reactions and significant medication interactions. However, they have quality scientific data that convincingly demonstrates efficacy, something I cannot broadly say for the repurposed therapies put forth in Dr. Scott Nickerson’s letter.

The implication that “the truth” is being censored or hidden and that some nefarious conspiracy is at play regarding these repurposed therapies is laughable but, in today’s society some take some very far-fetched ideas far too seriously and often without legitimate evidence. Nickerson’s suggestion that “public health authorities, the FDA, the CDC, the political process, most media outlets, many medical societies, hospital groups, pharmacies and, sadly, [by] most physicians” are “suppressing or censoring” data in some apparent conspiracy is laughably outlandish; unfortunately it’s not a humorous accusation.

Talk to your own trusted health care provider, your physician, an infectious disease specialist, perhaps a respected immunologist or virologist, but please ensure you are seeking quality medical information. If what you find is so contrary to what the vast majority of physicians and scientists support, it might mean the information you’ve gathered is incorrect or lacking, rather than the entirety of the scientific community is conspiring against your perspective.

We are all entitled to our own opinions and perspectives, but medical science is based on evidence, and all evidence is not of equal value. Often beliefs are founded on poor data, and we know too much at this point regarding SARS-COV2 and COVID-19 to not be justly critical of any evidence being cited. Quality appraisal of medical data is a time-consuming skill physicians and scientists are expected to be trained in. Please be sure whomever you seek information from has done their due diligence. I obtain my information regarding COVID from both primary review of relevant scientific studies as well as evidence-based reviews from the Infectious Disease Society of America, as I trust their process and reviews.

Hopefully we can all have enlightened debates on science and medicine without wandering into anger, frustration and fear. This is an objective medical problem with massive impacts on every level of society, so let us stick with the facts.

Ben Widener, MD


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