Lab tests in 2020 found that the widely available drug ivermectin had a weak effect on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and that unfeasibly large amounts of the drug would be needed to have any effect on humans. Now, however, some say that early trials signal the drug may prevent severe cases of COVID-19, leading some advocacy groups to lobby for its worldwide usage.
Ivermectin is a drug that treats parasites such as scabies in humans and intestinal helminths in cattle. The World Health Organization (WHO) includes the medication on its List of Essential Medicines. Its manufacturer has also donated four billion doses of the drug to Africa to prevent conditions such as river blindness.
While some insist the drug should be used against COVID-19, the US Food and Drug organization (FDA) has issued a special warning against its usage early this year to prevent COVID-19, stating it can cause ‘serious harm’.
They also stated that the drug is not an antiviral, has not been approved for treating or preventing COVID-19, and that it has only been approved for treatment against parasitic worms, head lice, skin conditions like rosacea.
Recently, researchers from the CEOsys project, in collaboration with the Cochrane Infectious Disease Group (CIDG), published a review in the Cochrane library investigating the effects of ivermectin on COVID-19.
All in all, the researchers examined 14 studies with 1,678 participants that investigated the drug compared to no treatment, placebo, or standard of care. The review attempted to establish the effects of ivermectin on the number of deaths, whether the patient’s conditions worsened or improved over time, as well as any unwanted side effects.
Of the 41 study results contributed by the studies, the researchers found that around a third had an overall high risk of bias. They also noted that ivermectin may have had little to no effect compared to placebos or standard of care on clinical outcomes up to 28 days post-infection, as well as hospitalization.
“Based on the current very low‐ to low‐certainty evidence, we are uncertain about the efficacy and safety of ivermectin used to treat or prevent COVID‐19,” concluded the authors.
“The completed studies are small and few are considered high quality. Several studies are underway that may produce clearer answers in review updates. Overall, the reliable evidence available does not support the use ivermectin for treatment or prevention of COVID‐19 outside of well‐designed randomized trials,” they added.