Ivermectin may be a wonder drug when it comes to treating parasite-borne diseases, but it won’t do much for your COVID-19 infection, according to a new study.
Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study concluded that ivermectin doesn't reduce the risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 and is yet another which supports what health officials have been saying for months: there is no significantly or clinically meaningful benefit to taking the drug as a COVID-19 treatment.
“The administration of ivermectin did not result in a lower incidence of medical admission to a hospital or prolonged emergency department observation for COVID-19 among outpatients at high risk for serious illness,” the paper reports.
While the conclusion is a valuable addition to our developing understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic, it probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anybody who has been paying attention to the many, many warnings from health officials against using the drug as a COVID-19 cure or preventative.
Ivermectin is “not authorized or approved by the FDA to prevent or treat COVID-19,” advises the CDC, and using the drug comes with potential risks, "such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea[,] Low blood pressure (hypotension)[, and] Neurologic effects.”
And the FDA went for an even simpler message.
“You are not a horse. You are not a cow,” the organization said in an August 2021 tweet. “Seriously, y'all. Stop it.”
And the new study has shown that even if you can get your hands on the human version of the medication, it’s unlikely to help with that cough. It was a randomized, double-blind study – pretty much the gold standard of scientific analysis – and it had strict, real-world criteria. Patients were only eligible for the study if they had a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis, were not asymptomatic, and had fewer than seven days of symptoms. In total, the researchers followed more than 1,300 patients, half of whom were given ivermectin and half who got a placebo.
But the researchers “did not find a significantly or clinically meaningful lower risk of medical admission to a hospital or prolonged emergency department observation … with ivermectin administered for 3 days at a dose of 400 μg per kilogram per day than with placebo,” says the paper.
It’s not the first time a peer-reviewed study has come to this conclusion. Despite multiple large-scale studies finding no significant benefit from ivermectin, the idea that the drug was some kind of miracle cure for COVID-19 has proved hard to shake – thanks in no small part to its promotion by various politicians and podcasters.
Yet from the very beginning, ivermectin’s status as an anti-COVID wonder drug was controversial. The first study to report successful results from the drug was revealed to be using doses way too high for human consumption – up to 2,000 times more concentrated than the standard dose, and easily enough to be toxic to a human. Other analyses which found positive results were found to be fraudulent.
“More than 60 randomized trials of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19 have been registered, and findings have been reported for as many as 31 clinical trials,” reports the paper. “The results have been discordant … most trials have been small, and several have been withdrawn from publication owing to concerns about credibility.”
And among those who took ivermectin regardless – or were forced to without their consent – to treat or prevent COVID, some pretty gnarly side-effects started being reported. Some people reportedly even died after taking the drug.
“There’s a lot of misinformation around, and you may have heard that it’s okay to take large doses of ivermectin,” warns the FDA. “It is not okay.”
The serious consequences of ivermectin misuse – and the lack of trustworthy evidence supporting its use against COVID-19 – make it something of a lose-lose option when it comes to fighting the pandemic. The new study is the latest in a long line of reasons to forgo a “treatment” that is more likely to make you poop your pants than stage a miraculous recovery.
“The WHO has concluded, on the basis of results obtained before our trial, that there existed only very-low-certainty evidence regarding ivermectin and thus recommended against the use of ivermectin for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 outside the clinical trial setting,” the authors note. “The findings in our trial are consistent with these conclusions.”