Tweets land ex-Senator in hot water

Former senator threatened with fine of up to $1.11 million and even imprisonment over tweets promoting ivermectin for treatment of COVID-19

Former Senator David Leyonhjelm has been pulled up by the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) over tweets about the drug ivermectin in the context of treatment for COVID-19.

On 2 February, Mr Leyonhjelm tweeted a photo of a horse medicine product along with the text: “In several countries, ivermectin is being used to treat Covid. For those who want some, this horse product is probably the most economical source. Enough to treat the street too.”

The regulator was alerted to the tweet and, following investigation, concluded that it constituted advertising for the promotion of medicines containing ivermectin as a therapeutic good, for the treatment of COVID-19 in humans.

This was a contravention of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, the TGA argued.

It pointed out that ivermectin is an active ingredient included in Schedule 4 to the current Poisons Standard, and that the tweet contained “a restricted representation, being a reference to a disease (COVID-19) that is a serious form of a disease”.

Nicole McLay, Assistant Secretary of Regulatory Compliance at the TGA, sent a letter to Mr Leyonhjelm on 4 February requesting that he immediately remove the tweet.

She warned that the alleged contravention could result in civil penalties of up to $1.11 million.

During a purported telephone call between the TGA and Mr Leyonhjelm the following day, Mr Leyonhjelm requested the letter be re-sent to him.

However according to the TGA, Mr Leyonhjelm did not remove the original tweet and photo, but instead re-tweeted it on 5 February with the added text: “The TGA (following a complaint from some snivelling toad) has written to say I’m promoting human use of an animal product. Promoting? Which part of “for those who want some” did they miss? Also, every horse owner in the country knows this.”

In the TGA’s direction, Ms McLay alleged that this additional tweet was a further contravention that carries a penalty of imprisonment for up to 12 months and a fine of up to $222,000.

She again directed Mr Leyonhjelm to cease advertising medicines containing ivermectin, and to cease making claims or representations in any advertisement for a therapeutic good concerning any effect on COVID-19.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is a global health emergency that is causing significant concern in the Australian community,” Ms McLay wrote.

“Your advertising further presents a specific risk to members of the public, insofar as it may encourage them to obtain and take ivermectin as a treatment or prophylaxis for COVID-19 rather than obtaining and following the advice of appropriately qualified medical practitioners.”

Mr Leyonhjelm appears to have now removed both posts from Twitter.

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  1. Anthony Zehetner

    If Mr Leyonhjelm named Ms McLay in his post that would constitute libel. Still to call her a ‘snivelling toad’ is slanderous. At least he didn’t make a sexist comment. Those who promote medical misinformation (and insults) are irresponsible and should be accountable for their actions.

  2. energyscholar

    The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence suggests that Mr Leyonhjelm is correct. If he’s wrong then there’s no significant harm done. If he’s RIGHT, and that’s what the great weight of evidence says, then those who oppose and censor him on this are causing grave harm and death. Don’t trust secondary sources or “fact checkers”. Go directly to the science in question. It’s quite clear. In fact, the scientific signal indicating ivermectin is effective against C19 is one of the clearest and strongest such signals this scientist has ever seen. TGA has picked the WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY on this issue.

    • Geoffrey Timbs

      Please provide references to the published, peer reviewed overwhelming scientific evidence.

      The current (Feb 11, 2021) NIH position on Ivermectin is “There are insufficient data for the COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel to recommend either for or against the use of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19. Results from adequately powered, well-designed, and well-conducted clinical trials are needed to provide more specific, evidence-based guidance on the role of ivermectin in the treatment of COVID-19.”
      NIH also noted “Some clinical studies showed no benefits or worsening of disease after ivermectin use, whereas others reported shorter time to resolution of disease manifestations that were attributed to COVID-19 greater reduction in inflammatory marker levels, shorter time to viral clearance, or lower mortality rates in patients who received ivermectin than in patients who received comparator drugs or placebo.
      However, most of these studies had incomplete information and significant methodological limitations, which make it difficult to exclude common causes of bias.”

      As I see it the NIH which is the US agency for assessing medical research is underwhelmed by the new studies – see Table 2c Ivermectin. Selected Clinical Data at

      What other peer reviewed studies that the NIH has missed provide your clearest and strongest signal?

    • Jarrod McMaugh

      whether or not he is correct (and the published evidence suggests that he isn’t), promoting the use of a schedule 4 poison, or promoting the use of a veterinary poison by humans, is illegal and incredibly irresponsible.

      Did no one learn from the cases in the US where people died after consuming industrial sources of chemicals related to hydroxychloroquin?

      Promoting the use of any potent substance without the oversight of a doctor, or the treatment of any serious condition without the oversight of a doctor, will lead to far more harm than benefit.

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