The Nine Network has been forced into an embarrassing backdown after recommending an unapproved horse dewormer as a treatment for COVID.
The use of ivermectin, an approved therapy for conditions such as scabies, as an off-label COVID treatment has become a touchstone for the anti-vaccination movement.
Support for the drug has long since transcended debate on its medical benefits. It has become closely associated with questioning consensus medical opinion.
It was only last week that a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that the anti-parasitic drug did not prevent severe disease from the virus, when compared with symptom management by medical professionals.
But in a story on Monday night about the Queen contracting the virus, the network appeared to endorse the use of the drug as a COVID treatment.
Nine’s A Current Affair quoted prominent Melbourne physician Dr Mukesh Haikerwal as approving new, cutting-edge treatments, both administered intravenously and orally.
At that moment, a photo of an ivermectin-based drug Stromectol flashed up on the screen.
Dr Haikerwal disclaimed the segment and said that the drug had been wrongly inserted alongside his words.
“I understand images inadvertently inserted into the [A Current Affair story] will be removed,” he said on social media, on Tuesday morning.
In a clarification on Tuesday afternoon, Nine said the images were included as a result of a production error.
“Last night our report on the Queen contained a shot that should not have been included,” the program stated.
“The shot was included as a result of human error. We were highlighting an approved infusion medication called Sotrovimab and the report accidentally cut to a shot of Stromectol – a product which contains Ivermectin.
ACA apologised for its mistake and said it never intended to imply that the Queen was using ivermectin.
But the apparent mistake was quickly seized on by anti-vaccine internet users, who accused the network of hypocrisy.
It was only a year ago that anti-vaccine mandate MP Craig Kelly was criticised for his advocacy of an unproven ivermectin treatment for COVID while appearing on Nine’s Today program.
The American podcaster Joe Rogan was also criticised by health experts last year for using ivermectin after contracting COVID.
The US Food and Drug Administration issued another warning against using ivermectin in December.
“The FDA has received multiple reports of patients who have required medical attention, including hospitalisation, after self-medicating with ivermectin intended for livestock,” the American regulator said.