A mixed methods study exploring requests for unproven COVID therapies such as ivermectin and healthcare distrust in the rural South

Lauren J. Van Scoy, Sarah H. Duda, Allison M. Scott, Arian Baker, Heather Costigan, Morgan Loeffler, Michael S. Sherman, Michael D. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The COVID-19 pandemic has led to contentious discourse regarding unproven COVID-19 therapies (UCTs),(e.g. ivermectin). Despite recommendations against it, ivermectin remains, in some areas, highly demanded. The goal of this study is to understand patient and provider perspectives about UCTs (e.g., ivermectin) and how responses to requests for UCTs impact healthcare distrust. This mixed methods observational study was conducted in a rural healthcare system in the Southern United States. Adults (n = 26) with a history of COVID-19 or clinicians (n = 8) from the same system were interviewed using questionnaires assessing healthcare distrust and qualitatively interviewed exploring perceptions about UCTs. Patient themes were: 1) Importance of anecdotal stories for decision-making; 2) Use of haphazard approaches to ‘research’; 3) Strong distrust of government and healthcare organizations; 4) Inherent trust in local healthcare; 5) Decision-making as weighing pros/cons; and 6) Feeling a right to try medications. High survey medians indicated high distrust with differences of 8.5 points for those who requested/used ivermectin versus those who did not (p = 0.027). Clinician themes were: 1) Frustration when patients trust social media over clinicians; 2) Acceptance of community beliefs about UCTs; 3) Distrust originating outside of the healthcare system; 4) Feeling torn about prescribing UCTs to build trust; and 5) Variable educational strategies. When clinicians are perceived as aligned with government, this may void patients’ trust of clinicians. Clinicians should leverage trust in local healthcare and distance themselves from distrusted information sources. Ethical questions arise regarding appropriateness of acquiescing to patient requests for ivermectin for building trust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102104
JournalPreventive Medicine Reports
StatePublished - Feb 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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