The COVID-19 pandemic has been notable for the widespread dissemination of misinformation regarding the virus and appropriate treatment. The objective of this study was to quantify the prevalence of non–evidence-based treatment for COVID-19 in the US and the association between such treatment and endorsement of misinformation as well as lack of trust in physicians and scientists.
This single-wave, population-based, nonprobability internet survey study was conducted between December 22, 2022, and January 16, 2023, in US residents 18 years or older who reported prior COVID-19 infection.
Self-reported use of ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine, endorsing false statements related to COVID-19 vaccination, self-reported trust in various institutions, conspiratorial thinking measured by the American Conspiracy Thinking Scale, and news sources.
A total of 13 438 individuals (mean [SD] age, 42.7 [16.1] years; 9150 [68.1%] female and 4288 [31.9%] male) who reported prior COVID-19 infection were included in this study. In this cohort, 799 (5.9%) reported prior use of hydroxychloroquine (527 [3.9%]) or ivermectin (440 [3.3%]). In regression models including sociodemographic features as well as political affiliation, those who endorsed at least 1 item of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation were more likely to receive non–evidence-based medication (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 2.86; 95% CI, 2.28-3.58). Those reporting trust in physicians and hospitals (adjusted OR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.56-0.98) and in scientists (adjusted OR, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.51-0.79) were less likely to receive non–evidence-based medication. Respondents reporting trust in social media (adjusted OR, 2.39; 95% CI, 2.00-2.87) and in Donald Trump (adjusted OR, 2.97; 95% CI, 2.34-3.78) were more likely to have taken non–evidence-based medication. Individuals with greater scores on the American Conspiracy Thinking Scale were more likely to have received non–evidence-based medications (unadjusted OR, 1.09; 95% CI, 1.06-1.11; adjusted OR, 1.10; 95% CI, 1.07-1.13).
The authors concluded that, in this survey study of US adults, endorsement of misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic, lack of trust in physicians or scientists, conspiracy-mindedness, and the nature of news sources were associated with receiving non–evidence-based treatment for COVID-19. These results suggest that the potential harms of misinformation may extend to the use of ineffective and potentially toxic treatments in addition to avoidance of health-promoting behaviors.
This study made me wonder to what extend a lack of trust in physicians or scientists, and conspiracy-mindedness are also linked to the use of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) for treatning COVID infections. As I have often discussed, such associations have been reported regularly, e.g.:
- Homeopathy as an Adjuvant to Standard Care in Moderate and Severe Cases of COVID-19
- Arrests in Germany of healthcare professionals who issued fake COVID certificates
- Classical homeopathy worsens the prognosis of patients infected with COVID-19.
- “No jabby-jabby for me! Praise GOD!” But now this antivaxer has died of COVID-related pneumonia
- Homeopathy for COVID: opinions expressed on Twitter
- Efficacy of Persian barley water on clinical outcomes of hospitalized moderate-severity COVID-19 patients
- Effectiveness of Homeopathic Arsenicum album 30C in the Prevention of COVID-19
- Homoeopathy in the Prophylaxis and Symptomatic Management of COVID-19
- Is aromatherapy the answer to long-COVID? I fear not!
- Anthroposophical hospital defies COVID-19 regulations
- An Ayurvedic medication is effective for patients suffering from mild to moderate COVID-19 – true or false?
- Homeopathy for COVID-19: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial shows that it does not work
- Micronutrient supplements for patients with COVID-19 infection
- A new trial of homeopathy for preventing COVID-19 infections
- Homeopathy and other SCAMs for long-COVID: WHERE IS THE EVIDENCE?
- Upper Bavaria is struggling with COVID-19, not least due to so-called alternative medicine
- And again: is vitamin C the solution for COVID-19 infections?
- Parents’ Willingness to Vaccinate with a COVID-19 Vaccine: strongly influenced by homeopathy
- A new study of homeopathy for the prevention of COVID-19 infections
- Homeopathic Treatment for COVID-19: a case of scientific misconduct and/or irresponsible behavior?
- The ‘AYUSH COVID-19 Helpline’: have they gone bonkers?
- Adjunctive homeopathic treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. A case study of homeopathic delusion
- US Chiropractor in court for making false claims related to COVID-19
- Chinese Herbal Medicine for COVID-19? The evidence remains unconvincing
- Vitamin C and/or zinc for managing COVID patients?
- An RCT on the efficacy of ayurvedic treatment on asymptomatic COVID-19 patients
- Herbal solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic?
The authors point out that the endorsement of misinformation related to COVID-19 has been shown to decrease the intention to vaccinate against COVID-19, to decrease the belief that it is required for herd immunity, and to correlate with forgoing various COVID-19 prevention behaviors. Such false information is largely spread online and often originates as disinformation intentionally spread by political actors and media sources, as well as illicit actors who profit from touting supposed cures for COVID-19. A substantial minority of the public endorses false information related to COVID-19, although certain subgroups are more likely to do so, including those who are more religious, who distrust scientists, and who hold stronger political affiliations. Cultivating and maintaining trust is a crucial factor in encouraging the public to engage in prosocial health behaviors. The extent to which addressing conspiratorial thinking could represent a strategy to address obstacles to public health merits further investigation.