Fact Check: More Than 3 Nobel Prizes HAVE Been Awarded For Drugs That Significantly Impact Human Lives

Fact Check

  • by: Courtney Kealy
Fact Check: More Than 3 Nobel Prizes HAVE Been Awarded For Drugs That Significantly Impact Human Lives At Least 4

Have only three drugs "ever been subject to the Nobel Prize because of their impact on human lives"? No, that's not true: At least four Nobel Prizes have been awarded to scientists for inventing drugs that have had a "significant impact on human lives."

The claim originated in a Facebook post (archived here) on December 5, 2021. It opened with:

Only three drugs have ever been subject to the Nobel Prize because of their impact on human lives...
Penicillin, ivermectin, and artemisinin.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Image 1-21-22 at 3.41 PM.jpeg

Facebook screenshot(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Jan 21 18:14 2022 UTC)

Half of the 2015 Nobel prize in the physiology or medicine category was jointly awarded to William C. Campbell and Satoshi Omura for their work, which led to their discovery of the drug avermectin, which treats river blindness and parasitic diseases. The drug ivermectin is a derivative of avermectin. The other half of the 2015 prize was awarded to Tu Youyou for her discovery of artemisinin combination therapy against malaria.

The 1945 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was awarded jointly to Sir Alexander Fleming, Ernst Boris Chain and Sir Howard Walter Florey "for the discovery of penicillin and its curative effect in various infectious diseases."

The 1939 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was awarded to Gerhard Domagk "for the discovery of the antibacterial effects of prontosil." The discovery became the basis for a number of sulfa drugs, the first type of antibiotic.

Ivermectin has not been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration as a drug to be used to treat COVID-19. However, Duke University doctors are studying it with two other drugs in a national study, according to the News & Observer newspaper.

The photo of the plaque in this Facebook post is of the landmark designation by the American Chemical Society for the discovery of ivermectin as a National Historic Chemical Landmark at Merk & Co., Inc., in Rahway, New Jersey, on December 2, 2016. The text is correct, which reads in part: "The result, ivermectin, offered a highly effective treatment for several parasitic diseases affecting a variety of animals. Following its approval for human use in 1987, Merck established a worldwide program to donate ivermectin as Mectizan® to treat onchocerciasis (river blindness), greatly reducing the prevalence of this debilitating disease. In 2015, Merck scientist William Campbell shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his role in developing ivermectin."

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Courtney Kealy

Courtney Kealy is a writer and fact-checker at Lead Stories. A graduate of Columbia University’s School of Journalism, she specializes in national and foreign affairs with more than two decades experience in the Middle East. Her work has appeared on FOX News, AlJazeera America, ABC News, the New York Times, Marie Claire, Time and Newsweek.

Read more about or contact Courtney Kealy

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