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To the editor: In his letter to the Reformer ("Getting the story right," Nov. 5) the writer (Steven K. Brooks) takes issue with my earlier letter ("Sloppy use of language," Oct. 15) which underscored the problems of mischaracterizing demonstrably false claims as being open to serious scientific debate (in this case, at issue was an article in the Reformer concerning the use of Ivermectin as a preventative treatment for COVID-19).

The writer suggests that in cases like this we should always be careful to "check the facts." I heartily agree.

For example, in an attempt to support his assertion that there is meaningful debate in the medical community concerning this topic, the writer points to a paper contained in the "National Center for Biotechnology Information" [NCBI] database managed by the NIH.

However (after following the writer's advice and checking the facts) the reader will note that this database, far from being a direct source for medical information, is instead simply an open repository of pointers to millions of articles in the relevant fields from around the world.

The NCBI database is certainly a valuable resource when its contents are handled with appropriate care by knowledgeable users.

However inclusion in the database in no way offers, in itself, any indication of the quality of the information in the articles it contains (as the NCBI itself takes care to make clear.)

But more to the point, the reader will also note that the writer avoids mention of the virtual unanimity among the other articles available in the database (and elsewhere) that contradict his assertion (as a single example, see the following article published by the FDA:

This phenomenon (of pointing to a single source, while scrupulously ignoring the contrary views expressed by the overwhelming majority of knowledgeable expert opinion, and then claiming that this is a basis for pretending that the topic can be considered as being open to actual serious debate, in short that it is "controversial") is certainly a common enough practice on fringe talk shows and in blogs and chatrooms across Internet. But it has no place in the discussions of issues as serious as this.

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Furthermore the writer quotes from an article posted on the NIH website concerning such uses of Ivermectin. The reader will note that the quote explicitly states that there is no basis for claiming the efficacy of Ivermectin's use in these cases. (Which, likewise, the reader will note is exactly the point here.)

Finally the writer raises the issue as to what degree there should be regulation or control over what treatments a licensed medical provider can choose to prescribe to their patients (whether pharmaceutical or otherwise).

Given that the trust between a patient and their provider is of critical importance, I certainly agree that there are legitimate concerns here, and that care should be taken when dealing with this issue, even when it involves as spurious a case as that of these uses of Ivermectin.

However, while one might defend the freedom to write such prescriptions what one is not entitled to do is to make false claims that there is any meaningful scientific or medical basis for doing so.

The bottom line is this: If the history of the last five years have taught us anything it is that paying attention to, and respecting, facts and knowledgeable opinion (not to mention reality) is important.

The spreading of misrepresentations, distortions and outright lies has been, and remains, an extremely serious problem in our public discourse.

And nowhere have the serious effects resulting from the spread of such falsehoods been made clearer that when reviewing the tragic history of the on-going COVID-19 crisis.

Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of American citizens have died as the direct result of the spread of such falsehoods (there have been over 1600 COVID-related deaths in the United States on the day on which I am writing this letter).

Those who generate, or help to spread these falsehoods, whether they are so-called "health care providers" (as described in the original article), or "anti-vaxxers" (who regularly pollute these pages with the their irresponsible nonsense) -- or writers of letters to the editor -- should be deeply ashamed of themselves.

Nichael Cramer

Guilford, Nov. 19