No evidence: There is no proof that ivermectin prevents or cures COVID-19
An infographic posted on Twitter on Feb. 28 has repeated the unsubstantiated claim (also here and here) that antiparasitic drug ivermectin can both prevent and cure COVID-19.
If taken “early” and for “prophylactic use” (as a preventive measure), a physician in Texas implies in the tweet, the drug can result in a “100 percent recovery” from COVID-19.
The tweet has amassed 617 likes, 349 retweets and 24 quote tweets. The infographic also appears on a website that explicitly promotes ivermectin and makes other questionable claims such as COVID-19 is a “vitamin D deficiency disease.”
Another tweet about ivermectin posted on March 1 claims that the medicine “works better than the latest mRNA nanotechnology ‘vaccine’.” It has gained more than 2,500 likes, 46 quote tweets and close to 1,000 retweets.
However, peer-reviewed studies and previous fact-checking stories, as well as an expert interviewed by Annie Lab, all indicate such claims have no scientific ground.
Ivermectin is a drug for animals, frequently used to deworm horses and treat scabies. In humans, it can also be used to treat conditions caused by parasitic worms, such as intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“These are echoes of hydroxychloroquine,” says Dr Siddharth Sridhar, a virologist and a clinical assistant professor at the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong.
Although the FDA-approved drug for treating infections caused by parasites has also shown antiviral activity, it has only been in vitro — in a test tube in a laboratory setting.
“The problem is that the majority of drugs that seem to work in the test tube are no good in living organisms. Even those that seem promising in animal models, might not work in humans,” said Sridhar.
“Until you do a Phase III randomized controlled trial, or just a well-done randomized control trial, comparing the treatment to a placebo, it doesn’t work,” he said.
Unlike all approved vaccines that have shown satisfactory levels of efficacy in randomized, controlled trials, ivermectin has not been proven to be effective in any way.
A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association on March 4 concluded that ivermectin does not significantly reduce the duration of symptomatic COVID-19 in a person.
In the double-blind randomized trial, a total of 476 adult participants with mild disease and symptoms from seven days or fewer were enrolled between July 15 and Nov. 30, 2020.
Among the 400 participants included in the primary analysis, 200 participants received ivermectin. The other 200 received the placebo.
The study found that for the participants who received ivermectin, the resolution of symptoms was 10 days, compared to 12 days for the placebo group, which was “not significantly different” as the researchers commented in the paper. There were also four cases of multi-organ failure noted, two in each group.
This suggests that ivermectin may not prevent adverse outcomes. The study concluded that there is no evidence to support the use of ivermectin in treating COVID-19.
Sridhar advises caution against the use of it as prevention as well.
“Don’t take the drug in any dose, low dose or high dose. There is no proof that it can prevent COVID-19. It does not help if you have COVID-19. There is absolutely no valid basis for anyone to suggest an effective dosage.”
An academic publisher, Frontiers in Pharmacology, has rejected one study that claimed the effectiveness of the antiparasitic drug on COVID-19 patients after the editors found it “does not offer an objective nor balanced scientific contribution” for evaluating the drug.
Many people in the U.S. reportedly have self-medicated with animal-sized doses of the drug, the FDA says on its website. It mentions reports of patients requiring hospitalization and medical support after taking doses of ivermectin appropriate for horses.
“Never use medications intended for animals on yourself. Ivermectin preparations for animals are very different from those approved for humans,” the FDA wrote in a statement published on March 5.
Overdosing on the drug can result in vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, allergic reactions including itching and hives, and low blood pressure. In more serious cases, it can lead to seizures, coma and even death, according to the U.S. federal agency, which has already warned about the use of ivermectin on COVID-19 patients last year.
Drugs with ivermectin as the ingredient are all prescription-only in Hong Kong. The drugs database from the Hong Kong Department of Health shows 10 out of 11 of these drugs are veterinary medicine.