As much of the world waits for an effective vaccine to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, some doctors are turning to unproven therapies to treat severe hospitalizations, especially intensive care patients.
Ivermectin, an inexpensive medication, has been widely used for decades to treat livestock and people infested with parasitic worms — and in the past few months, its popularity as a preventative against COVID-19 has surged In Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala, and other Latin American countries.
Why Ivermectin is Called the Wonder Drug?
In 1975, workers at Merck laboratories received 54 samples from Japan including some soil samples obtained from a golf course, one of which contained a factor with significant antiparasitic effects.
The new compound was called Ivermectin and marketed under the name Mectizan. It was used for animal health in 1981 and soon became a top-selling veterinary medication in the world.
Ivermectin was approved for human use in France in 1987. Since then, more than 3.7 billion doses (donated by Merck laboratories) have been distributed globally.
It is listed as an essential medication by WHO and has been called a “wonder drug”.
In 2015, William Campbell and Satoshi Ōmura were awarded a joint Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discovery and development of ivermectin.
Data from Clinical Studies
In Vitro Study from Monash University
In April 2020, Australian researchers reported that ivermectin slowed the replication of the novel coronavirus in mammalian cells.
The scientists infected the cells with SARS-Cov-2 in a test tube, added ivermectin, and found that within 24 hours, the amount of viral RNA had been reduced by 93%. By 48 hours, essentially all viral material was eradicated.
But they used a dosage that was so high it may have dangerous side effects in people. Still, even at lower doses, the researchers indicated that ivermectin had the potential to inhibit the replication of the virus in the body.
Study Published In CHEST
Researchers reviewed charts of 280 consecutive patients who were hospitalized at 4 hospitals in Florida with confirmed COVID-19 between March 15 and May 11, 2020.
A total of 173 patients in this cohort were treated with ivermectin vs 107 who were not treated with ivermectin. Dosing of ivermectin was per treating physician’s discretion.
The majority of patients in both groups received hydroxychloroquine (92.9%) and azithromycin (86.7%).
Mortality rates were significantly lower in a subgroup of patients with pulmonary involvement who were treated with ivermectin compared with similar patients not treated with the medication (38.8% vs 80.7%, respectively; OR, 0.15; 95% CI, 0.05-0.47; P =.001).
The results indicated that ivermectin treatment was associated with lower mortality during treatment of COVID-19, especially in patients with severe pulmonary involvement.
Clinical Studies from Bangladesh
The largest randomized controlled trials (RCT) by Mahmud et al. was conducted in Dhaka, Bangladesh and targeted 400 patients with 363 patients completing the study.
In this study, either a tetracycline (doxycycline) or macrolide antibiotic (azithromycin) was included as part of the treatment.
Important clinical outcomes were profoundly impacted, with increased rates of early improvement (60.7% vs. 44.4% p<.03) and decreased rates of clinical deterioration (8.7% vs 17.8%, p<.013).
In another case series of 100 patients by Mushed et al. in Bangladesh, all treated with a combination of 0.2mg/kg ivermectin and doxycycline, they found that no patient required hospitalization nor died, and all patients symptoms improved within 72 hours.
Ivermectin Is FDA-Approved, But Not For COVID-19
Ivermectin is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved antiparasitic medication that is used to treat several neglected tropical diseases, including onchocerciasis, helminthiases, and scabies in 1996. For these indications, ivermectin has been widely used and has demonstrated an excellent safety profile.
The FDA issued a warning against taking pet medications to treat or prevent Covid-19. There is not an emergency use authorization for ivermectin in the U.S. to prevent or treat coronavirus or COVID-19.
Recommendation from NIH
National Institutes of Health (NIH) COVID-19 treatment guidelines Panel recommends against the use of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19, except in a clinical trial.
NIH listed the proposed mechanism of action and rationale for use in Patients with COVID-19.
Ivermectin has shown very high activity fighting both the SARS-CoV-2 virus as well as the inflammation produced in all stages of COVID-19. It works pre-and post-exposure, the early symptoms phase and late-stage disease.
Should I Take Ivermectin To Prevent or Treat COVID-19?
While there are approved uses for ivermectin in people and animals, it is not approved for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.
You should not take any medicine to treat or prevent COVID-19 unless it has been prescribed to you by your health care provider and acquired from a legitimate source.
It is common for doctors to treat patients using off-label medications with a safe track record, especially in the context of a public health emergency for a disease with no known treatment.
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