A large study has debunked the anecdotal claims on the efficacy of the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin against COVID-19. Despite what some experts previously believed, the dewormer did not help treat patients infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Ivermectin vs. COVID-19

Since the early days of the pandemic, some experts and medical doctors have been adamant about the purported healing effects of ivermectin against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Some Facebook groups and social media personalities even promoted the anti-parasitic drug as a treatment for COVID-19 without a solid scientific basis and relied on anecdotal data.

In December, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a formal warning to discourage the public from using the dewormer to treat COVID-19. In its statement, the federal agency made it clear that the horse dewormer was never authorized or approved for use in preventing or treating the infection caused by the novel coronavirus. The FDA also indicated that even though there are human-approved formulations, they should not be taken in large doses since they could be dangerous to the health.

Two months later, doctors involved in the ACTIV-6 study, the biggest study that sought to evaluate the drug’s effectiveness in reducing symptoms of non-hospitalized COVID patients, said they were eager to once and for all find out if ivermectin really had the potential to treat COVID-19. They intended to involve at least 15,000 patients from across the country. As of late, the study is still in the process of recruiting participants.

Latest Study Findings

While the ACTIV-6 study is still underway, another large-scale study about the anti-parasitic drug was published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week. The new study did not yield favorable results. According to the team behind the randomized, double-blind study, which started its clinical trial in 2020 and analyzed more than 1,300 cases in Brazil, ivermectin did nothing to help the COVID-19 patients.

“Treatment with ivermectin did not result in a lower incidence of medical admission to a hospital due to progression of COVID-19 or of prolonged emergency department observation among outpatients with an early diagnosis of COVID-19,” the researchers wrote in their study published Wednesday.

The researchers divided the cases into two and gave one-half ivermectin and the other a placebo. Neither the trial participants nor their doctors knew what they were getting. The patients given the drug in the first three days after testing positive for COVID-19 showed worse outcomes than those who took the placebo.

Drug Recommendation

A previous study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine in February also indicated that ivermectin did not prevent and treat severe COVID-19 symptoms among the nearly 500 participants of the research conducted in Malaysia last year. One group in the study received a relatively high dose of oral ivermectin for five days; the participants did not show that much difference compared with the other group that received symptom-managing treatment from doctors.

The researchers also reported that a few more patients in the ivermectin group ended up needing extra oxygen than the other group. Some participants in the experimental group also experienced an array of side effects from the horse dewormer, such as diarrhea, anemia, and even heart attacks.

Despite the controversy surrounding ivermectin, a group of physicians called the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) still included the drug in its “i-recover” protocol of medications, vitamins, and therapies for long COVID. The group said it came up with the recommendations list to help the growing number of patients dealing with lingering symptoms since there was a lack of clinical treatment trials addressing long COVID.