- The antiparasitic drug ivermectin is not authorized to treat COVID-19.
- But some people have self-medicated with the drug to treat COVID-19 even though that is not recommended.
- Some people have had ivermectin toxicity after taking a form of the drug only used on animals.
- A large new study finds the drug does not help relieve symptoms of COVID-19.
New research supports what doctors have long suspected about ivermectin — the drug does not appear to reduce the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19.
A new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine Wednesday, evaluated the effectiveness of ivermectin compared to a placebo or other treatment in over 3,500 people diagnosed with COVID and found no notable benefit to ivermectin treatment.
Another report out of Malaysia found that a five-day course of ivermectin did not reduce the risk of developing severe disease amongst people with mild to moderate COVID who had comorbidities.
Despite the lack of evidence behind the use of ivermectin for COVID, demand for the antiparasitic drug has surged throughout the pandemic.
The Food and Drug Administration, along with the World Health Organization and Infectious Diseases Society of America, all advise against the use of ivermectin for COVID.
Though approved in small, specific doses for parasitic worms in humans, the drug is not authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use against COVID-19.
Some people, including podcaster Joe Rogan, have self-treated their coronavirus infections with ivermectin and spread misinformation that it’s effective.
The FDA has received multiple reports of patients who have needed urgent medical attention or hospitalization after experimenting with the drug at home.
The drug is known to cause adverse reactions in humans — like headache, nausea, and even seizures — and the current evidence does not support the use of ivermectin outside of clinical trials.
“There is a due process to assess therapeutics,” said Dr. Jorge Salinas, an infectious diseases doctor at Stanford University. “At this moment, there is not enough clinical evidence to support the routine use of ivermectin.”
A new study has found more evidence that ivermectin did not lower the risk of hospitalization, reported the Wall Street Journal.
Researchers looked at information from over 1,400 people with COVID-19 who were at risk of severe disease. The data is expected to be presented on Friday and to be published in a medical journal at a later date.
The researchers said those who took ivermectin did not have fewer symptoms than those who took a placebo.
“There was no indication that ivermectin is clinically useful,” Dr. Edward Mills, one of the study’s lead researchers and a professor of health sciences at Canada’s McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, told the Wall Street Journal.
According to Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor, a medical toxicologist and co-medical director of the National Capital Poison Center, ivermectin has been explored as an antiviral drug since it affects certain mechanisms related to viral cell growth and development.
In laboratory studies not involving humans, ivermectin has previously been found to inhibit the production of HIV and dengue viruses.
Due to these previous findings, the drug was tested against SARS-CoV-2.
One laboratory study found that ivermectin may be able to reduce COVID-19 infection — but it’s crucial to note that this was an in-vitro (or test tube study) that did not involve humans, according to Johnson-Arbor.
“It’s important to understand that a drug such as ivermectin may be effective against COVID-19 infection in a test tube in-vitro study, but that does not mean that it will have the same effect in humans,” Johnson-Arbor said.
Some people have taken those findings to mean that the drug can treat COVID-19, but there are many critical differences between in-vitro studies and human studies.
Several clinical studies worldwide are evaluating the use of ivermectin for COVID-19, but the results from many of these studies aren’t yet available.
“The data needs to be peer-reviewed and published before the scientific and medical community can provide an informed opinion,” said Salinas. “At this point, the currently available data do not support its use.”
Low doses of ivermectin can cause unwanted side effects, including headache, nausea, swelling, skin rashes, and dizziness.
According to Johnson-Arbor, some people may develop visual changes.
Ivermectin can also interact with other medications, like blood thinners.
Ingesting large doses of ivermectin can lead to severe consequences.
“At higher doses, ivermectin can have toxic effects on the brain and cause neurological symptoms including confusion and difficulty walking,” said Johnson-Arbor.
Overdosing on ivermectin can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, seizures, coma, and even death.
“There have been reports of ivermectin toxicity in people not using it under medical supervision,” said Salinas.
Furthermore, the ivermectin tablets used for animals are different from those used for treating parasitic worms in humans.
Taking the drugs intended for animals is dangerous.
“For now, given the lack of quality evidence supporting its use and the known risks of the drug, the use of ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 infection is not recommended,” Johnson-Arbor said.
New research has found ivermectin was no better than a placebo at diminishing COVID-19 symptoms.
There are known risks associated with the drug, and though clinical trials evaluating the drug are ongoing, there isn’t enough data to recommend taking the drug to treat COVID-19.