Is Ivermectin Effective Against COVID-19?

The drug ivermectin has continued to baffle the medical community over its possible efficacy against COVID-19. Despite the warning issued by the Food and Drug Administration against its use in the treatment of patients, scientists are eager to invest their time and effort in uncovering whether it has what it takes to cure SARS-CoV-2 infection. 

Buzz Over A Japanese Study

Late last month, there was chatter over the anti-parasitic drug when Reuters reported about a Japanese study, saying “ivermectin is effective against omicron in phase III trial.” In research terms, a phase III trial refers to tests conducted to see how well a new treatment works compared to standard treatment. This phase involves human testing. 

The report quickly caused a commotion online as social media users started sharing it to spread the word about ivermectin’s miraculous property to treat COVID-19 patients. However, the outlet quickly corrected its report after spotting a mistake. The original headline stated, “Japan’s Kowa says ivermectin effective against omicron in phase III trial.”

To address the issue, Reuters changed its headline into one that highlighted the drug’s “antiviral effect” against COVID, as reported by Kowa Co. Ltd. After all, the Japanese company said in a statement that its research was conducted in a lab and not in a clinical setting, The Berkshire Eagle reported. 

The updated report reflected that Kowa and its partner, Tokyo’s Kitasato University, studied the efficacy of ivermectin against SARS-CoV-2 in a non-clinical setting. Also mentioned was Kowa’s continued effort to examine the drug by having volunteers test the effectiveness of the horse dewormer in treating COVID-19. However, the results for the new study would be available much later.

FDA Warning

In December, the FDA published a formal warning on its website against the use of ivermectin in treating COVID patients. The federal agency released the statement in response to the multiple reports about SARS-CoV-2 patients requiring medical attention and hospitalization after self-medicating with ivermectin in an attempt to cure their COVID infection. 

According to the FDA, most formulations of ivermectin, such as pour-on, injectable, paste, and “drench” are approved for the treatment of parasites in animals. In humans, the tablet form of ivermectin is for parasitic worm infestation. On the other hand, the topical formulation of the drug is for head lice and certain skin conditions like rosacea. 

Ivermectin was never authorized or approved for use in preventing or treating COVID-19 infection in humans or animals. The FDA warned that animal ivermectin products should not be used in humans, while the human-approved formulations should not be abused because taking large doses of the drug could be dangerous to the health.

“Never use medications intended for animals on yourself or other people. Animal ivermectin products are very different from those approved for humans. Use of animal ivermectin for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 in humans is dangerous,” a part of the agency’s statement read. 

Studying Ivermectin

Despite the warning, many scientists are still interested in deciphering whether or not ivermectin has what it takes to cure COVID. Since the early days of the pandemic, there has been word about the anti-parasitic medicine’s alleged lifesaving properties against the novel coronavirus online. But there hasn’t been a scientific study to absolutely back this claim. 

There is a national study on repurposed medications by experts in the U.S. as of late. The three drugs to be examined as part of the research are fluvoxamine, fluticasone, and ivermectin. The purpose of the ACTIV-6 study is to evaluate each drug’s effectiveness in reducing symptoms of non-hospitalized COVID patients. 

Doctors at Duke Raleigh Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, involved in the study said that they are eager to once and for all find out if ivermectin can work against SARS-CoV-2. With the scope of the study, which has a goal of involving at least 15,000 patients from across the country, the researchers are hoping to give the public an official answer to ivermectin’s believed efficacy. 

“The aim was to look for drugs that have already been around, being used for other indications, so their safety is well-known,” Dr. Adrian Hernandez, one of the study leaders, told “Taking ideas from a Petri dish to, actually, the population is really critical.”

Even though Hernandez acknowledged the FDA’s warning against the use of ivermectin for COVID treatment, he said they needed to study the dewormer along with the other two drugs to prove if a certain dose could be effective and safe for humans. 

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