Social Media and COVID-19—Perceptions and Public Deceptions of Ivermectin, Colchicine and Hydroxychloroquine: Lessons for Future Pandemics

Natalie Schellack*, Morné Strydom, Michael S. Pepper, Candice L. Herd, Candice Laverne Hendricks, Elmien Bronkhorst, Johanna C. Meyer, Neelaveni Padayachee, Varsha Bangalee, Ilse Truter, Andrea Antonio Ellero, Thulisa Myaka, Elysha Naidoo, Brian Godman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The capacity for social media to influence the utilization of re-purposed medicines to manage COVID-19, despite limited availability of safety and efficacy data, is a cause for concern within health care systems. This study sought to ascertain links between social media reports and utilization for three re-purposed medicines: hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), ivermectin and colchicine. A combined retrospective analysis of social media posts for these three re-purposed medicines was undertaken, along with utilization and clinical trials data, in South Africa, between January 2020 and June 2021. In total, 77,257 posts were collected across key social media platforms, of which 6884 were relevant. Ivermectin had the highest number of posts (55%) followed by HCQ (44%). The spike in ivermectin use was closely correlated to social media posts. Similarly, regarding chloroquine (as HCQ is not available in South Africa), social media interest was enhanced by local politicians. Sentiment analysis revealed that posts regarding the effectiveness of these repurposed medicines were positive. This was different for colchicine, which contributed only a small number of mentions (1%). Of concern is that the majority of reporters in social media (85%) were unidentifiable. This study provides evidence of social media as a driver of re-purposed medicines. Healthcare professionals have a key role in providing evidence-based advice especially with unidentifiable posts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number445
JournalAntibiotics
Volume11
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

Keywords

  • South Africa
  • clinical trials
  • colchicine
  • hydroxychloroquine
  • ivermectin
  • re-purposed medicines
  • sentiment analysis
  • social media
  • utilization

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