Is ivermectin a COVID cure?


(Photo by LUIS ROBAYO/AFP via Getty Images)

ST. LOUIS – With Missouri emerging as a COVID-19 hotspot due to the prevalence of the Delta variant, and the reluctance of some to get vaccinated, there is talk on social media about possible treatments, cures, or preventative measures that can be taken to ward off the virus.

Last fall and leading into spring, some people latched onto the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a way to either prevent contracting COVID-19 or as a means of treatment. However, months of study and analysis from the scientific community have proven that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective preventative of COVID-19. The World Health Organization, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health all recommend against its use.

Other drugs like remdesivir and ritonavir eventually took the place of hydroxychloroquine as some sort of COVID panacea but research findings indicated neither drug as suitable as a suitable treatment.

The development and subsequent deployment of multiple COVID vaccines in the United States has, unfortunately, become a political football. Educated discussion on the matter is often drowned out.

Amid the din over vaccines, talk has emerged of a new drug to be used as a viable option for COVID treatment – ivermectin.

Ivermectin is an antiparasitic discovered and developed by drug manufacturer Merck. It’s been in widespread use for decades. For humans, the drug is a treatment for some parasitic worms, as well as head lice, scabies, river blindness, and rosacea. It’s also used to treat parasites in livestock.

Over the last several months, ivermectin has been heralded as some kind of wonder drug or miracle cure for COVID-19. A research paper in June 2020 claimed that ivermectin suppressed the replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, though noted the need for clinical trials. Other researchers noted some successes with the drug as well. This led to the embrace of ivermectin in places like Latin America and India eager to find a COVID cure or treatment.

One group of doctors and researchers, the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, published a paper touting ivermectin. The article was picked for publication by a medical journal in Jan. 2021 and later removed from consideration in March after editors determined the paper did not meet the standard of evidence and discovered the doctors who authored the paper were using the report to push their own treatment programs.

The National Institutes of Health has reviewed many of these studies and found limitations, making their conclusions less than definitive.

At present, the NIH, WHO, and FDA, among others, do not recommend using ivermectin as a COVID treatment, except only in clinical trials.

Meanwhile, the University of Oxford is investigating ivermectin as a COVID treatment in a PRINCIPLE trial. It is the seventh such treatment to be examined by Oxford researchers. Only one of those treatments studied, the inhaled steroid budesonide, was found to reduce recovery time.

So where does that leave things concerning ivermectin? Simply put: it does not seem to be a valid COVID treatment at the moment but additional research and studies are taking place to confirm its viability.

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