Explainer: Ivermectin as a Cure for COVID-19? Find out the Facts…

COVID-19 Explainer Medical

In the battle against deadly COVID-19 pandemic, health experts continuously stress upon the importance of getting vaccinated and creating herd immunity. However, many types of drugs have been discussed at the same time, among public and on social media, as measures to treat the deadly COVID19 virus at various stages of infection. 

This is our investigation in relation to one of such medicines, IVERMECTIN, which is allegedly claimed as a ‘wonder drug’ and a cure for COVID-19.

Social Media Posts

A person named Ryan Jayatunga, posted about a wonder drug called IVERMECTIN, claiming it to be a miracle cure for COVID19. The post goes on to claim that this drug was instrumental in reducing the massive death toll in India and as Sri Lanka is also expected to have over 200 casualties in coming days, this drug is recommended for those having breathing problems on a daily basis and once a week for those who have not contacted the deadly virus. The post is attributed to Prof. Wilfred Perera, a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist from Colombo as seen below.

Facebook| Archived

The same content is getting shared among WhatsApp users as well. One of our users sent us the following message on WhatsApp and requested for a detailed fact check on the subject.

Due to the request, we decided to find out the facts behind these claims

What is Ivermectin?

Ivermectin is a medicine mostly used to combat against the parasites of animals like horses and cows. Even for humans, Ivermectin has been approved by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat against the certain parasitic worms and  several neglected tropical diseases, but it is not yet recommended against virus-based infections. Link 

Clinical trials on Ivermectin:

We noticed reports citing certain studies such as this, which claimed that Ivermectin has been successful in lowering mortality rate of patients hospitalized with COVID19. However, as the patients who got Ivermectin also got more steroids, the results were not conclusive.

According to a research done by Sheba Medical Centre in Israel, it was found that Ivermectin had positive results with no significant side effects in treating COVID -19. Prof. Eli Schwartz who led this research as a clinical study for around 7-8 months, says that Ivermectin can be used as a cost effective treatment for COVID 19 and there is a significant difference in results shown in the group who received Ivermectin as compared to the group who received placebos. However, this study has also not been peer reviewed yet.

Also there are theories by certain scholars who believe big pharma companies don`t want to accept Ivermectin as COVID-19 drug, as the drug is cost effective and companies can`t earn big profit from utilizing it. An article about these supportive researches for Ivermectin, can be reached from here. Archived.

Few other limited studies have also found out that Ivermectin has shown positive results in restricting the multiplication of COVID19 in the lab-controlled situations.

However, a broader study done in Colombia had found out that the contribution of Ivermectin to control the viruses is very little or minor as seen here. The study concludes as “The findings do not support the use of ivermectin for treatment of mild COVID19, although larger trials may be needed to understand the effects of ivermectin on other clinically relevant outcomes

USA Today , lists few more details about clinical trials on Ivermectin and views of medical experts from USA as well. Most of these experts say that it`s tough yet to conclude how effective Ivermectin has been in treatment of COVID-19 patients, until results from extensive ongoing clinical trials are known.

Use of Ivermectin in India:

We noticed reports few reports, which could have influenced the claims in Sri Lanka, claiming that Ivermectin had been influential in declining mortality rates in Delhi, India as seen here, in early June. Archived

However, days later, WION reported that HCQ, Favipiravir, Ivermectin and vitamins had been dropped by Indian health officials from their guidelines in COVID19 treatments.

Also, Tamil Nadu state of India has stopped its usage of Ivermectin in May, 2021 as a result of the warning of WHO regarding the general use of Ivermectin for COVID-19. The Hindu article related with this can be reached from here. Archived

World Health Organization & FDA:

We came across this report from WHO website in March 2021 which said WHO advises that Ivermectin only be used to treat COVID19 within clinical trials

We also contacted WHO country office in Sri Lanka, where Dr.Nalika Gunawardena responded saying that the drug is not recommended by the WHO for COVID-19 treatments so far as the evidences are still inconclusive.

WHO African Region posted the following video in May, as the drug was getting increasingly recommended in the region, stating that there is no evidence to support the use of Ivermectin in preventing or treating COVID19. It also said that Ivermectin is approved for human use to treat parasitic worms.

afro.who.int | Archived

Meanwhile, FDA warns that Ivermectin can be harmful to the human beings as it is basically used to treat animals. FDA has not approved ivermectin for treatment or prevention of COVID19 in humans as seen below.

FDA | Archived

Sri Lankan Health Sector views:

We inquired Dr.Ananada Wijewickrama, a member of the expert committee appointed by the Ministry of Health to prevent COVID -19 mortality in Sri Lanka, regarding the Ivermectin drug. Dr.Wijewickrama said that the Ivermectin drug still in the stage of clinical trials around the world and the “Evidences are not sufficient so far to give it to COVID19 patients as a part of the treatment of the disease

We contacted Dr. Kamal Jayasinghe, the CEO of National Medicine Regulation Authority, who told us that the NMRA recently gave the approval to import new stocks of Ivermectin to Sri Lanka, as the stocks were becoming low in the country and public have been complaining that the drug was being sold at higher rates, since some health officials have recommended the drug in treatment with COVID-19 as well.

Factcrescendo SL team contacted Prof. Wilfred Perera whose name is mentioned alongside the claim about Ivermectin drug. He acknowledged making these statements and said that he was in the view that Ivermectin can work as a treatment against COVID- 19 as it can significantly drop down the mortality rate of COVID 19 victims.

Also despite scant evidences of its effectivity in treating COVID19, recent reports from USA suggest that demand for the deworming drug, ivermectin, has continued to rise, despite warning by FDA.  NYTimes | Kxan | NBCNews

Here is a fact check from Politifact in early August, which also said there is no credible evidence to suggest that Ivermectin has caused a substantial decrease of excess mortality rates in Mexico, in response to claims which went viral in USA.

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Conclusion

From our investigation we conclude that, Ivermectin is still under the clinical trial stage and more extensive research is required to understand its effectiveness as a treatment for COVID19 patients. According to the available data on clinical trials, there is no conclusive evidence yet to recommend Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19 patients or as a preventative agent for COVID-19. Hence, the World Health Organization and FDA, along with many health experts have warned against the use of Ivermectin, mainly an anti-parasitic drug, until the results of these tests are known.

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Title:Explainer: Ivermectin as a Cure for COVID-19? Find out the Facts…

Fact Check By: Kalana Krishantha 

Result: Explainer

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