Giving high-risk COVID-19 patients Ivermectin has no effect on reducing disease severity, a randomized controlled study of 500 people has found, with the data not supporting the use of the anti-parasitic drug in hospitals.
The findings are in keeping with previous research, despite the overwhelming controversy surrounding the drug, but clinical trials are still ongoing as to whether Ivermectin has any effect when used prophylactically.
The results were published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
Ivermectin is a cheap, widely-available drug typically used as an anti-parasitic treatment for scabies and parasitic worm infections. Following a study suggesting the drug may also have some anti-viral properties in isolated lab conditions, ivermectin became widely popular as an alternative treatment for COVID-19 – though subsequent experiments failed to show any benefit of the drug when used in patients.
Widespread use prompted the US Food and Drugs Administration to tweet the famous “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y'all. Stop it” statement, urging people to stop sourcing ivermectin through veterinary sources intended for large livestock.
Still, a drug like this would be a remarkable weapon against COVID-19 if it did work, and as such, extensive research is being carried out on whether it can improve patient outcomes.
This research involved almost 500 patients with COVID-19 aged 50 and over, with confirmed co-morbidities linked to severe disease marking them as high-risk patients.
The group was split in half, with one group receiving a 5-day course of ivermectin alongside standard care in the first week of symptom onset. The other half received standard care alone. Each patient was then monitored for a variety of symptoms and metrics to identify early signs of deterioration and severe disease.
Of the group receiving standard care, 43 of the 249 patients (17.3 percent) progressed to severe disease, while 52 of 241 patients (21.6 percent) who received ivermectin progressed to a similar outcome. While the group receiving ivermectin actually had higher disease severity, it was not statistically significant and the results suggest no improvement from ivermectin treatment.
There were no statistically significant results for any secondary outcomes between the groups. In the ivermectin group, the most common adverse effect was diarrhea, with 14 people (5.8 percent) experiencing it but only 4 people (1.4 percent) experienced it in the control group.
The results suggest ivermectin is not effective when given to patients during the early onset of COVID-19 symptoms and does not have an effect on disease severity when taken in this way.
The authors note that this was an open-label trial, and not a double-blind trial that studies such as this strive for, so there may be some overestimating of adverse effects in the ivermectin group and underestimating in the control group, although the effect of this in a disease severity study is likely small. Ivermectin is also often touted as a prophylactic COVID-19 treatment (used as a preventative agent) by ivermectin supporters, and this study did not explore this.