The antiparasitic drug ivermectin does not appear to be an efficacious COVID-19 treatment for mild COVID-19 cases, based on a randomized study recently published in JAMA.
Ivermectin — which is widely used in veterinary medicine to get rid of worms and other parasites— emerged as a potential COVID-19 treatment, owing to its ability to inhibit replication of the SARS-CoV-2 drugin in vitro and animal studies.
Similar research elevated hydroxychloroquine as a potential COVID-19 therapeutic agent, but the drug also has disappointed in human studies. The World Health Organization now cautions against its use as a COVID-19 treatment.
The ivermectin recipients in the Colombian study had a slightly faster resolution of symptoms than the placebo arm. The median time to resolution was 10 days in the ivermectin group versus 12 for placebo recipients. The number of patients in the ivermectin group who required escalation of care was 2% compared to 5% with placebo.
Overall though, the differences between the two arms were not statistically significant.
Ivermectin has been commonly used as a COVID-19 therapy in Latin America and elsewhere despite uncertain clinical benefits.
Like hydroxychloroquine, the drug has also won favor from non-medical experts extolling its purported benefits online. According to Science Alert, there has been a recent increase in reports of people poisoning themselves with the drug — in some cases because they acquired horse-sized doses from veterinary sources.
The editors of Frontiers in Pharmacology recently retracted an article supporting the drug in patients infected with COVID-19, saying it lacked scientific rigor. The publication also issued a statement stressing that it “takes no position on the efficacy of ivermectin as a treatment of patients with COVID-19, however, we do take a very firm stance against unbalanced or unsupported scientific conclusions.”
A separate study, a preprint meta-analysis involving 7,412 participants, found that ivermectin was not associated with reduced mortality or reduced patient recovery.
NIH has concluded that scientific data are lacking to make a recommendation “for or against the use of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19.”