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The Truth Behind Ivermectin for COVID-19

The Truth Behind Ivermectin for COVID-19

With the number of cases soaring daily, supplies for key medications against COVID-19, such as remdesivir, have been running low. And even if they are available, they often cost thousands of pesos per dose. For many people, this calls for the use of ivermectin, an affordable drug that some reports claim to be effective in treating SARS-CoV2 infections. But why do experts say that ivermectin is not effective? What’s the truth about this “wonder drug?”

Experts warn the public against the use of ivermectin for animals

Ivermectin is an approved veterinary anti-parasitic drug discovered in Japan. Due to its ability to kill a wide range of parasites in animals, veterinarians and livestock owners call it a “wonder drug.”

After Merck’s research laboratories made preparations for humans, ivermectin further proved its wonders; it helped treat two of the most devastating parasitic infections which affected billions of people in the tropics: Onchocerciasis and Lymphatic filariasis1.

While ivermectin for humans is generally safe with minimal side effects, experts warn the public against the use of ivermectin for animals. They emphasize that the preparations for animals are very different from those approved for humans.

The premise behind ivermectin in treating COVID-19

When used correctly, ivermectin is an effective anti-parasitic medicine. But can it help treat COVID-19 infections?

One research2 concluded that ivermectin can significantly reduce the SARS-CoV2 viral RNA within 48 hours. However, the drug showed this viral inhibitory property in vitro or outside a living organism.

Other in vitro studies likewise pointed out that ivermectin can have the necessary anti-viral efficacy; however, the administered doses in those studies were up to a hundred times higher than the approved use for humans3.

And while some reports4 indicated the ivermectin “is generally well tolerated at higher doses and more frequent regimens,” experts are highly against the idea.

We also have scientific investigations involving human participants, but they typically have concerning limitations3. Some of these limitations include:

  • Having small sample sizes.
  • Patients receiving other medications, such as corticosteroids and hydroxychloroquine, in addition to ivermectin.
  • Unclear descriptions of the severity of the COVID infections.

Ivermectin is not an effective treatment for COVID-19

With the misinformation going around about ivermectin, it’s crucial to take note of the following reminders from various health institutions.

Merck5, the maker of ivermectin medicine for human use, issued a statement saying that to date, their analysis showed no scientific basis on the therapeutic effects of the drug against COVID-19 from pre-clinical studies. They also noted the concerning lack of safety data in the studies currently available.

The World Health Organization (WHO)6 and European Medicines Agency (EMA)7 also do not recommend the use of ivermectin for COVID-19 outside controlled clinical trials.

ivermectin is not effective

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA)8 strongly advises the public against the purchase and use of veterinary ivermectin. In their statement, the FDA reminded the people that currently, the only available ivermectin for human use in the country is in topical form and it can only be obtained with a doctor’s prescription.

On March 31, “concerned parties” applied for the product registration of ivermectin medicine for humans in the Philippine FDA. As of this writing, the administration is processing the registration11.

In another report9, the Department of Health (DOH) issued a warning for physicians who prescribe ivermectin in treating COVID-19 infections. The DOH stated that doctors who prescribe the drug for intentions outside its approved use risk losing their license.

Key Takeaways

  • People are warned against using veterinary ivermectin.
  • Ivermectin may be an effective anti-parasitic drug, but it is not an approved anti-viral yet.
  • Some studies suggest that ivermectin has anti-viral properties that may inhibit the SARS-CoV2 virus, but many of these studies have concerning limitations.
  • You may have heard that it’s okay to take ivermectin in high doses. Experts stress that it is wrong, as the risk of overdose is there. They also highlight that even the approved dose for humans can interact with other medications.
  • As per WHO recommendations, one should not use ivermectin for COVID-19 outside controlled clinical trials.
  • The FDA and DOH strongly warn the public against the purchase and use of ivermectin in treating or preventing COVID-19.

Learn more about Coronaviruses here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

1) Ivermectin, ‘Wonder drug’ from Japan: the human use perspective https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3043740/ Accessed April 5, 2021 2) The FDA-approved drug ivermectin inhibits the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in vitro https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166354220302011 Accessed April 5, 2021 3) Ivermectin https://www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov/antiviral-therapy/ivermectin/ Accessed April 5, 2021 4) Safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetics of escalating high doses of ivermectin in healthy adult subjects https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12362927/ Accessed April 5, 2021 5) Merck Statement on Ivermectin use During the COVID-19 Pandemic https://www.merck.com/news/merck-statement-on-ivermectin-use-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/ Accessed April 5, 2021 6) WHO advises that ivermectin only be used to treat COVID-19 within clinical trials https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/who-advises-that-ivermectin-only-be-used-to-treat-covid-19-within-clinical-trials Accessed April 5, 2021 7) EMA advises against use of ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 outside randomised clinical trials https://www.ema.europa.eu/en/news/ema-advises-against-use-ivermectin-prevention-treatment-covid-19-outside-randomised-clinical-trials Accessed April 5, 2021 8) FDA Advisory No.2021-0526 || Public Health Warning on the Purchase and Use of Ivermectin Veterinary Products for COVID-19 https://www.fda.gov.ph/fda-advisory-no-2021-0526-public-health-warning-on-the-purchase-and-use-of-ivermectin-veterinary-products-for-covid-19/ Accessed April 5, 2021 9) DOH: Doctors prescribing Ivermectin as COVID-19 cure risk losing license https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1411421/doh-doctors-prescribing-ivermectin-as-covid-19-cure-risk-losing-license Accessed April 5, 2021 10) Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19 https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/why-you-should-not-use-ivermectin-treat-or-prevent-covid-19 Accessed April 5, 2021 11) FDA begins processing registration of Ivermectin for human use in PH https://www.rappler.com/nation/fda-begins-processing-registration-ivermectin-human-use-philippines?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1617618469 Accessed April 6, 2021
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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Apr 06, 2021
Medically reviewed by Stephanie Nicole Nera, RPh, PharmD