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Ivermectin’s bumpy ride through America | International

The use of ivermectin against Covid-19 has been controversial around the world, fuelled by social media and celebrity proponents. Nominally an antiparasitic, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised against its use a few months after the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, and noted that more studies were needed to evaluate its effectiveness against the novel coronavirus. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency have followed the WHO’s line, but at least 10 Latin American countries authorized its use during the pandemic.

Japanese biochemist Satoshi Omura won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine for the discovery of ivermectin three decades earlier. The drug is highly effective against infections caused by worms and is commonly used as a topical solution to treat head lice. In the first few months of the pandemic, the world was desperately fighting against the then-unknown SARS-CoV-2, with no vaccines or treatments to turn to as the virus infected and killed thousands of people every day. Pharmaceutical companies and governments desperately searched for existing drugs that might work, and the low-cost ivermectin emerged as a potential option.

Most academics and international agencies did not jump on the bandwagon due to the lack of irrefutable evidence in the drug’s favor during the early days of the pandemic. At the extremes, ivermectin was variously seen as a “miracle drug” or completely useless against Covid-19. The United States has simultaneously become a bastion of skepticism about its use against the virus as well as a breeding ground for celebrity and social media promotion of the antiparasitic. “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” one FDA tweet read, alluding to ivermectin’s veterinary use in a bid to curb its consumption. Before the pandemic, doctors were handing out 3,600 prescriptions for human use each week. Six months ago, the figure was 88,000, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has warned of a sudden increase in demand.

In addition to the FDA, the National Institutes of Health, the American Medical Association and US pharmaceutical associations all advise against prescribing ivermectin for Covid, but that has not stopped vaccine skeptics taking it – with sometimes disastrous consequences. Last August, five people in Oregon were hospitalized for ivermectin poisoning, two of whom required intensive care.

“Ivermectin use has been irrational in many countries,” said biologist, chemist and pharmacologist Guillermo Barranco, an academic at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Barranco believes the drug has been misprescribed in terms of dose, which has led to unnecessary expense and demand for counterfeits. “Prescribing a drug is not easy,” he added. “It is not just a matter of saying ‘take it and that’s it.’ You need trained professionals.”

Brazil may offer the most pertinent example of ivermectin use and abuse in Latin America. The government of Jair Bolsonaro continues to defend using the drug against Covid-19, despite the raft of scientific evidence on its ineffectiveness and amid the deaths of 600,000 Brazilians from Covid-19. The issue remains highly politicized, and to this day the Brazilian Ministry of Health recommends so-called Covid kits, which include ivermectin and other discredited drugs such as chloroquine and azithromycin. Sales of ivermectin increased eightfold in the country during the first year of the pandemic.

A box of ivermectin in a file photo.
A box of ivermectin in a file photo.BENOIT TESSIER (Reuters)

In Peru, ivermectin has been authorized for the treatment of mild cases of Covid-19 since May 2020. Then-health minister Victor Zamora declared that one drop of the solution should be taken for every kilo the patient weighed, up to a maximum of 50 drops. Peru’s public health system also provided free “Covid kits” with the same medicines as in Brazil. Faced with the collapse of the country’s health system, thousands of people self-medicated with ivermectin in 2020, after doctors and dubious “experts” recommended it on radio programs. Some 5,000 people also took stronger doses intended for veterinary use, at the behest of evangelical groups.

Local media has reported that the Peruvian government bought 1,000% more ivermectin in 2020 than in previous years, and the official policy has ebbed and flowed as health officials rotated in and out. In February 2021, another former health minister, Pilar Mazzeti, commented there were “no definitive results” on the drug’s effects, but that doctors could “consider its use” after talking with a patient. The following month, the newly appointed (and current) Health Minister Óscar Ugarte cited the WHO in saying that studies of the antiparasitic drug “show that it does not have the positive effect it was supposed to have.” Health authorities withdrew ivermectin from its list of approved Covid-19 treatments in May 2021, but that does not mean that citizens have stopped taking it.

In line with its neighbors, Bolivia included ivermectin in its list of essential drug treatments against Covid-19 in May 2020, even though the government acknowledged that no scientific study confirmed its efficacy. The drug had become popular, especially in the east of the country, where it had long been used to combat parasites in animals and people. Its popularity has waned over time, as more and more people died despite being treated with the drug, while some doctors have warned of an increase in cases of poisoning, although there are no official statistics. As in most other countries on the continent, ivermectin’s use has also slowed since the rollout of vaccines. The latest Health Ministry guidelines in Bolivia do not recommend it directly, but several municipalities still distribute it free of charge and its use is still widespread among conspiracy theorists and vaccine skeptics.

Some smaller Latin American countries made very ambitious bets on the drug. Guatemala also handed it out in medical kits for the population at the end of 2020, along with ibuprofen, aspirin and vitamins C and D. “Be warned that there are veterinary drugs on the market containing ivermectin,” the authorities said at the time. “These are not authorized for human use because of the imminent risk they can cause to health.” Without adequate medical supervision, ivermectin can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, drops in blood pressure, allergic reactions, seizures, coma and even death, according to the FDA. Belize also authorized the antiparasitic’s use to treat Covid-19, including in severe cases, from December 2020 onwards. “It is a drug that has been used safely in humans and animals for many years,” explained Melissa Diaz-Musa, the country’s health minister, noting that the risks outweighed the benefits. “We found significant evidence that it helps reduce the replication of the virus,” she added to justify the decision and challenge the narrative that it was a so-called “miracle product.”

Panama went a step further and purchased around 450,000 doses of ivermectin in the first months of 2020, along with 2.9 million doses of hydroxychloroquine, as part of the now familiar self-medication kits, according to Nature magazine. The country later backtracked, and in December 2021 the government issued a communiqué advising citizens not to use the drugs to treat Covid-19: “The efficacy of these products against this virus has not been proven,” the statement said.

In Mexico, a dozen states and the federal district of the capital administered ivermectin, and it was an omnipresent drug in private doctors’ offices (and of some public sector doctors). “Everyone was prescribing it,” said Salvador Arteaga, a doctor in Mexico City, but added: “Many of us stopped handing it out because we saw no effects on our patients, especially in the severe cases.” The government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador issued an order in August 2021 not to use ivermectin, and Mexico City authorities stopped distributing it, although they have defended their initial decision.

A stand in a market in Mexico City illegally selling medicines.
A stand in a market in Mexico City illegally selling medicines. Quetzalli Nicte Ha

In some countries, there are inconsistencies between national policy on the use of ivermectin and the strategy of some regional states. Ecuador has banned its use for Covid-19 treatment since February last year, but Cynthia Viteri, mayor of Guayaquil (the second most populated city in the country), became the main proponent of its use in 2021, when vaccines were still largely yet to arrive.

In Colombia, authorities have never officially recommended the use of ivermectin to treat Covid-19. As early as July 2020, President Iván Duque, who at the time had a daily television broadcast to report on the pandemic, asked the public to proceed with caution. “The Ministry of Health and Social Protection considers that in order to guarantee the effectiveness of the drug, we must wait for the results of controlled studies,” he said. That same summer, the mayor of Cali, physician Jorge Iván Ospina, defended its use, which became popular in what is the third-largest city in the country.

Ivermectin also found an ally in former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe, one of the country’s most powerful men. Uribe said publicly that he had taken it to overcome the coronavirus on the advice of his doctors, in a cocktail that also included azithromycin, acetaminophen, vitamin C and plant extracts. In June 2021, the Colombian authorities issued an alert, reporting an increase in poisoning from consuming the antiparasitic.

In Argentina, the National Administration of Food, Drugs and Medical Technology (Anmat) also declined to recommend ivermectin as a Covid-19 treatment. The medicine approval body argues that there is insufficient evidence to validate its efficacy against the virus. The drug is not available in pharmacies in big cities such as Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Rosario and Mendoza, and doctors will not prescribe it. Anti-vaccine demonstrators pushing for its use are also markedly absent.

Nevertheless, clinical trials have been authorized in Argentina, and the Argentine Scientific Commission found that “the administration of ivermectin at a dose of 0.6 milligrams per kilogram of bodyweight produces the fastest and deepest elimination of the virus when treatment is started in early stages.” However, it warned that this trial was not sufficiently representative and recommended further research. The drug remained banned by the national authorities after this result, but four of the country’s 23 provinces –Misiones, Corrientes, Tucumán and La Pampa – authorized its use in infected people and health personnel. Although certain European and Asian countries have granted partial authorizations and conducted ivermectin studies, the Americas have established themselves as one of the epicenters of hopes, failures and scandals over the use of ivermectin against the coronavirus.

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Healthcare And Digital Upskilling

HeathTech & MedTech

According to EIT Health’s Elaine Murray and Sneha Saloni, it’s time to embrace digital upskilling within the healthcare industry

European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, announced last year that 2023 would be the ‘European Year of Skills’ with the objective of “a Europe fit for the digital age”. It will promote a mindset of reskilling and upskilling, helping people develop the right skills for the most in-demand jobs.

So, what does this mean for the healthcare sector? The European Health Parliament previously stated that, “digital technology is an inevitable part of the future of European healthcare” and called for upskilling healthcare workers.

Digital technologies such as AI, telemedicine and robotics, present huge potential for the way healthcare can be delivered, by maximising the reach and impact of various health services.

Preference is slowly shifting from brick and mortar to virtual healthcare and hence, many in the health sector are starting to reimagine and embrace digital to maximise efficiency and efficacy.

The digital skills gap

Healthcare professions make up approximately 10pc of the workforce in Europe, however estimates forecast that there is a shortage of approximately 1m health workers (600,000 in nursing, 230,000 physicians). Data demonstrates that healthcare companies are not visible among the most attractive employers in the eyes of talent.

Couple that with a 2020 report by the European Commission which stated that “shortages of software skills are now omnipresent” across Europe. The pandemic has not only boosted demand for tech-enabled healthcare services, with 90pc of all jobs in health soon to require an element of digital skills, but it has also widened the skill gap, placing stress on existing healthcare systems.

That means the industry is facing challenges in both recruiting into the sector and equipping the staff it does have with the digital skills they need. Many are either resistant or not well informed about new digital tools and systems. Lack of information and training among clinical and support staff acts as a deterrent to improving efficacy in patient care outcomes.

We therefore find ourselves at a critical juncture. Digital transformation in healthcare means increasing pressure on the existing system to perform, while sustaining and acknowledging the widening skills gap. Adequate investment in the workforce’s digital skills and digital literacy is now crucial.

Empowering healthcare professionals through digital upskilling

EIT Health, Europe’s largest health innovation network, is working to combat the talent shortage in the healthcare industry through its WorkInHealth Foundation. This aims to promote healthcare as a sector in which talent can thrive in Europe, particularly in the areas of digital, commercial, and innovation. EIT Health’s pan-European network links industry and academia which means it can tap into both recruiters and candidates, matching talent across the sector.

For those on the frontline, it can be difficult to stay abreast of so many fast-changing technologies entering the market. Whether it is a hospital administrator seeking to become proficient at using chatbots, cleaning staff adopting autonomous disinfection software, or a physician showing a patient how to use a medical device remotely, technology is integrated at every level of health service delivery.

A holistic approach needs to be adopted for upskilling by creating regular training opportunities for healthcare workers, senior executives and support staff so they can develop the digital expertise they need to carry out their roles efficiently and effectively.

There is also opportunity for institutions to shift from traditional training frameworks to digital alternatives. For example, training programmes to understand the integration of AI, data management, analytics and machine learning into existing infrastructure.

Initiatives such as the HSE’s Spark Innovation Programme create regular knowledge-building opportunities for healthcare staff in areas such as AI, design thinking, and innovation.

The Healthcare Transformation Academy, coordinated by EIT Health and organisations from the European University Hospital Alliance, offers high-quality and affordable on-demand courses in digital transformation, innovation management, high-value care and leadership for healthcare professionals to upskill.

The WorkInHealth Foundation also aims to support in upskilling and reskilling, increasing the volume of talent in the areas with greatest demand and boosting competitiveness of the European health industry. The initiative is in full alignment with the ambitions of the European Innovation Agenda as well as the EU Pact for Skills.

The European Year of Skills 2023 will help the healthcare sector navigate its digital transformation journey by address skills shortages in the EU, promoting a mindset of upskilling, which can ultimately improve patient care and increase reach in healthcare accessibility.

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Global Affairs

How Entrepreneurial Mindset Is Necessary For Startup Triumph

Entrepreneurial Mindset & Startup Triumph

The Voice Of EU | In today’s dynamic world of startups, achieving exceptional growth isn’t a one-shot endeavor. It demands more than a stroke of luck or a hidden formula; it requires an unwavering entrepreneurial mindset, a steadfast commitment, and consistent, sustained effort.

How Entrepreneurial Mindset Is Necessary For Startup Triumph

Picture Credits: PS Vault

In the subsequent sections, I’ll dissect five crucial factors to high-performance growth psychology that can steer your startup towards unprecedented success.

1. The Primacy of Communication

In the quest for growth, it’s commonplace for companies to prioritize feature development over precise language. Yet, this approach is fundamentally misguided. Language should precede all else.

The words you choose to articulate your product and company not only define your identity but also establish user expectations. Your choice of language wields significant influence, shaping how users perceive and engage with your offering. For example, a ridesharing service becomes exponentially more appealing when it promises a ride in four minutes or less.

User-Centric Empathy

Successful Founders distinguish themselves by their ability to think beyond their product and focus on the users. It’s imperative to understand how users think and feel, considering the intricate web of their lives.

To truly stand out, you must ask, “What does my product mean to them, and how does it fit into their world?” Behind every thriving tech company lies a profound insight into human psychology, a key that resonates with users’ needs and desires.

Perpetual Motion

In a landscape dominated by industry giants, speed emerges as your greatest ally. Much like the ancient shrew that thrived through ceaseless motion, startups must embrace a similar philosophy, “be creative, be dynamic.”.

To navigate the whirlwind of rapid changes and outmaneuver larger competitors, you must be in perpetual motion. Swift experimentation, rapid iteration, and an unwavering forward momentum are the cornerstones of sustained growth.

The Embrace of Data

Commitment to measurement is the engine driving growth. Being truly data-driven is not merely a buzzword, but a fundamental philosophy. Devoting substantial engineering resources to measurement, up to half of your total, demonstrates a genuine love for data. It should be an integral part of your company culture, displayed prominently for all to see. Your daily stats should be a source of pride and a testament to your dedication to growth.

Resilience in the Face of Setbacks

Failure is a constant companion on the path to growth. Embracing a mindset that can endure these setbacks is crucial. Most initiatives will yield negative outcomes, and being able to move forward despite this is paramount.

It’s a psychology of resilience, encapsulated in the saying, ‘Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm‘. This grit and determination are the keys to achieving substantial growth.

Implementing Growth Psychology

To instill these growth-oriented mindsets in your team, consider the following steps:

1. Teach the mentality, particularly the willingness to endure repeated small failures.

2. Clarify that every member is directly responsible for growth, regardless of their official role.

3. Provide your team with the authority to drive product changes and allocate resources for growth.

4. Encourage your team to be more aggressive in pushing growth boundaries.

5. Keep taking big swings and be open to creative, high-risk strategies.

Ultimately, growth is a collective effort, but it hinges on the psychology of the CEO. Founders shape their startups through consistent actions and decisions.

Cultivating the right growth psychology can be the difference between sluggish progress and exponential success. It empowers your company with data-driven visibility, constant momentum, and the audacity to aim for 1000% growth.

If you’re in the latter camp, reach out to us to explore further opportunities for growth.

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— By Raza Qadri | Business, Science & Technology Contributor “The Voice Of EU

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A New Era of Flight: Alef Aeronautics’ Flying Car Receives FAA Certification

Alef Aeronautics’ Flying Car Receives FAA Certification


In a world where futuristic visions of flying cars have long captured our imaginations, a new era of flight is about to take off. On June 12, 2023, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a Special Airworthiness Certificate to Alef Aeronautics, granting their flying car model the official approval to take to the skies.

This marks a pivotal moment in the history of advanced air mobility (AAM) and represents a significant step towards revolutionizing transportation as we know it.

The Concept and Creation of Model A

Alef Aeronautics, a California-based company, began working on the concept of their flying car in 2015, driven by a vision of safe and efficient urban air mobility. The result of their innovative efforts is the Model A, a road-legal passenger car designed to accommodate two occupants. The Model A boasts an impressive driving range of 200 miles (322 km) and a flight range of 110 miles (177 km), making it a viable option for short-to-medium distance travel.

The sleek and compact design of the Model A is intended to resemble a regular car, ensuring that it can seamlessly blend into everyday life. One of the standout features of this futuristic vehicle is its ability to achieve vertical take-off and transform into a biplane midflight. The doors of the Model A serve a dual purpose, cleverly converting into wings that allow for a smooth transition from ground to air. This innovative design not only promises a thrilling flying experience but also aims to dramatically change the way we commute.

Technological Challenges and Safety Concerns

While the Model A holds great promise for the future of transportation, numerous technological challenges remain to be overcome. Jim Dukhovny, the Chief Executive of Alef Aeronautics, acknowledges that some components required for the flying car’s design do not currently exist in the world. The development of highly specialized propeller motor systems is crucial to avoid differential stress and ensure the safety and stability of the flying car. Balancing size, weight, and price constraints presents further hurdles in making these vehicles accessible to the public while maintaining their safety standards.

'City of Future Mobility' by PS Art - Voice of EU
‘Future of Air Mobility’ by PS Art — ‘THE VOICE OF EU’

Despite these challenges, the Model A is poised to undergo manufacturing in 2025 or early 2026, with vehicles already available for pre-order. The current price tag stands at $300,000 (£246,000), but Alef Aeronautics aims to scale down the cost to $35,000 or £28,700 per vehicle in the future. However, ensuring a seamless transition from ground to air remains a complex issue that needs to be addressed to guarantee passenger safety during take-off and landing.

Regulation and Infrastructure

As the concept of flying cars inches closer to reality, the focus shifts towards ensuring a smooth integration of this new mode of transportation into urban landscapes. Urban air mobility operations will primarily be overseen by a country’s air navigation service provider (ANSP), such as the FAA in the United States. The ANSP holds full jurisdiction over the nation’s airspace operations and is responsible for certifying new aircraft types after rigorous safety reviews.

According to a blueprint report published by the FAA, the initial implementation of flying car operations will leverage existing regulatory frameworks and rules, such as visual flight rules and instrument flight rules, as a basis for enhanced aircraft performance and higher levels of autonomy. However, several concerns need to be addressed, including noise, pollution, security, sustainability, and cost. The issue of who will drive these flying cars and whether passengers will need a license also requires careful consideration.

Trajectory Planning and Noise Pollution

One of the significant concerns surrounding the advent of flying cars is the potential for collisions and noise pollution. With these vehicles traveling at high speeds, ensuring precise path and trajectory planning becomes essential to avoid accidents. However, to date, there are no provisions for flying car trajectory route planning, necessitating robust research and technology development to address this challenge.

Moreover, designing flying cars to be exceptionally quiet presents another obstacle, particularly when large-scale commercial operations could involve hundreds of take-offs and landings every hour. Electric propellers and other propulsion design elements can mitigate noise pollution, but strict government regulations may be necessary to control noise levels effectively. Drawing on metrics from traditional airplanes and helicopters, guidelines for air infrastructure can be adapted to curb noise pollution.

Equitable Access and the Future of Flying Cars

As the reality of flying cars draws nearer, ensuring equitable access to this mode of transportation becomes paramount. Initially, air taxis may primarily serve densely populated areas, offering a convenient and efficient solution for peak commute times in cities like central London or New York City. However, cost considerations may limit access, making these services accessible mainly to affluent travelers.

Addressing this concern, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) collaborated with Arup, a British firm specializing in design, engineering, and sustainability services, to develop a report on urban air mobility policy framework considerations. Emphasizing the importance of treating flying cars as a funded municipal service and a public good, this report suggests that once the proof of concept is established, rigorous testing has taken place, and safety risks are mitigated, advanced air mobility services should function as a community-wide asset, similar to libraries, schools , airports, or roads.

By viewing urban air mobility as an essential public service, cities can play a crucial role in establishing rules and regulations to ensure safe and equitable access to flying car services.

Los Angeles, A Potentially Early Adopter

With its legendary traffic congestion, Los Angeles has emerged as a city with significant potential for embracing flying cars as a solution to its transportation woes. The promise of faster, traffic-free commutes is undoubtedly enticing for Angelenos. However, it is essential to manage expectations, as urban air mobility will not entirely eliminate congestion. Instead, the focus should be on utilizing air taxis strategically in densely populated areas during peak hours to optimize their impact.

NASA and FAA’s Partnership

As the world gears up for the new era of flight, significant progress is being made through collaborative efforts. NASA, along with the FAA, university researchers, and industry leaders, has joined forces to develop software tools that model and predict AAM noise. This initiative aims to assist manufacturers in designing quieter vehicles to minimize noise pollution in urban environments. By exploring human response to low-level noise and understanding the threshold for “broadband noise,” NASA seeks to predict the combined sound generated by multiple flying cars in flight simultaneously.

The Road Ahead

The journey towards incorporating flying cars into our daily lives remains a complex and multifaceted process. Addressing technological challenges, ensuring safety during transitions from ground to air, and managing noise pollution are just some of the hurdles that must be overcome. Regulatory bodies and urban planners will play a pivotal role in defining the future of urban air mobility, establishing guidelines for air infrastructure, and implementing necessary rules to guarantee a safe and seamless experience for all.

While flying cars are often seen as the epitome of futuristic innovation, it is crucial to ground these advancements in practicality and feasibility. Economies of scale will likely play a significant role in making flying cars more affordable over time, eventually broadening their accessibility beyond the wealthiest travelers. As with any transformative technology, public acceptance and engagement will be essential to ensure the integration of flying cars as a valuable addition to our transportation ecosystem.

As the Model A prepares to take its maiden flight, it represents not only a significant milestone for Alef Aeronautics but also for the entire field of advanced air mobility. The dream of a future where flying cars dot the skies may soon be closer than ever before, bringing a new era of transportation and endless possibilities.

In conclusion, the FAA’s certification of Alef Aeronautics’ flying car marks a crucial turning point in the history of air mobility. While significant challenges and complexities lie ahead, the progress made by companies like Alef Aeronautics, along with the collaboration of regulatory bodies and industry leaders, pave the way for a future where flying cars become a reality in our cities. As we embrace this new era of flight, it is essential to strike a balance between innovation, safety, and sustainability, ensuring that the promises of flying cars are fully realized and integrated into our lives in a way that benefits all members of society. The skies of tomorrow hold the potential to unlock a new dimension of transportation, ushering in a world where flying cars soar alongside traditional vehicles, revolutionizing the way we move and connect. The journey has just begun, and with each step forward, we inch closer to a future that once seemed only possible in our wildest dreams.

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Raza Qadri (ALI), founder of USADCO and Yorkshire VBT, is a distinguished science, technology and business contributor renowned for his insightful perspectives on cutting-edge innovations and their practical impact on the business landscape.

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